Fri, 02 Dec 2022

A court in Brussels has backed a fiercely criticized treaty allowing prisoner exchanges with Iran, potentially opening the way for an Iranian diplomat imprisoned on terrorism charges to return home in exchange for a Belgian aid worker.

The ruling, according to the Belgian media, lifts a temporary ban on using the treaty that was handed down by an appeals court earlier this year.

Prime Minister Alexander de Croo's government has said that the treaty is the only solution for the release of Olivier Vandecasteele, a Belgian aid worker jailed in Tehran.

Vandecasteele, 41, was detained by Iranian authorities in February, apparently without charge.

In exchange, Iran would likely take back Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, who was last year sentenced to 20 years in connection with a plot to bomb a rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exiled opposition group, outside Paris in June 2018.

The Belgian opposition has alleged that the agreement with Tehran was tailor-made to permit Assadi's release, while Iranian exiles have also mounted a fierce campaign against the deal, leading a group of 11 human rights organizations to appeal to Brussels to cancel the agreement.

The groups said the treaty could result in the release of a convicted terrorist and "legitimize Iran's hostage-taking."

They also warned that the agreement violates the commitment of Belgium and the European Union to hold perpetrators of terrorist acts accountable.

Western countries have repeatedly charged that Iran is trying to take advantage of foreign countries by taking dual and foreign nationals hostage and then using them in prisoner swaps.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036

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