Belgium has released the Iranian spy chief, Assadollah Assadi, who was charged in a Paris bomb plot, as part of a prisoner swap for aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele.
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Iran and Belgium have conducted a deeply controversial prisoner swap with mediation by the country of Oman, which has led to the release of an aid worker and a diplomat.
Tehran was able to secure the release of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, who was serving 20 years in a Belgian prison after his 2021 conviction for plotting to bomb the exiled Iranian dissident group Mujahadin-e Khalq (MEK) in Paris.
On the other side of the swap, Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed that aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele was en route to Belgium.
It was only January that a secret Iranian court sentenced Vandecasteele to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes, as well as a fine of $1 million, after conviction for espionage. It’s widely believed that Iran holds Westerners on trump-ed spy allegations in order to use these cases for leverage with the West, and to conduct swaps. His family has condemned the espionage allegations as false.
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“Olivier spent 455 days in prison in Tehran. In unbearable conditions. Innocent,” De Croo said.
Iran’s foreign ministry celebrated it as a victory, while MEK representatives condemned the swap. “The innocent diplomat of our country, who was illegally detained in Germany and Belgium for more than two years against international law, is now on his way back to his homeland,” Iranian FM Hossein Amirabdollahian wrote on Twitter.
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