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Iran releases Belgian humanitarian Olivier Vandecasteele in prisoner swap

The Belgian national had been detained in Iran for 455 days. According to the Iranian media, the diplomat Assadollah Assadi, sentenced in Belgium to life imprisonment for having tried to organize an attack against a gathering of the Mujahedin of the people in Paris, has also been released.

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Belgian humanitarian Olivier Vandecasteele, detained in Iran for 455 days, was released after an exchange of prisoners between Brussels and Tehran facilitated by Oman, several senior officials announced on Friday.

Olivier spent 455 days in prison in Tehran. In unbearable conditions. Innocent. If all goes as planned, he will be with us tonight. Finally free said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, without referring to an exchange of detainees. For its part, the Sultanate of Oman, mediator between Tehran and Western countries, indicated that the humanitarian had been released as part of a “mutual exchange” of two detainees between Iran and Belgium.

The two ex-convicts were transported from Tehran and Brussels to Muscat today (Friday) for their return to their respective countries “, specified the sultanate, without giving details on the identity of the Iranian.

An exchange with an Iranian diplomat

At the end of April, Belgium had indicated “ examine » Tehran’s request for the transfer of an Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, sentenced in Antwerp in 2021 to twenty years in prison for a planned attack which was to target a rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI, coalition of opponents) in 2018 in France. A treaty for the mutual transfer of convicts signed in 2022 between Belgium and Iran and which entered into force on April 18 paved the way for this exchange.

Dozens of Westerners are detained in Iran, described by their supporters as innocent people used by Tehran as leverage and bargaining chip.

Arrested on February 24, 2022 in Tehran, Olivier Vandecasteele, 42, had been convicted of “espionage”. According to Belgium, he was at the heart of ” blackmail », and treated « inhumanely “.

(With AFP)

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