Iran is open to a prisoner exchange with Belgium, after the agreement was approved by Belgium’s Constitutional Court. So says the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
The treaty allows an employee of a Belgian NGO detained in Iran to be exchanged for an Iranian diplomat who is in a Belgian cell. “With the latest change, we hope that there will be an opening in this diplomat’s case,” said an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman.
The Belgian aid worker trapped in Iran is Oliver Vandecastel, an employee of the non-profit humanitarian organization Relief International. He has been in prison for more than a year and was sentenced last January to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes, including espionage.
Belgium assumes that Vandekastel is imprisoned in response to the conviction of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi. In 2021, he is sentenced to twenty years in prison in Belgium for his involvement in a failed attack on a meeting of an Iranian opposition group.
Duty to protect
Iran and Belgium signed a prisoner exchange agreement last year, but an Iranian opposition group objects to the treaty. It is feared that Al-Asadi will be used again to launch attacks against opponents of the Iranian regime after his return to Iran.
Last Friday, the Constitutional Court rejected the objections, but with an important caveat. The ruling states that the Belgian state has a duty to protect people who may be in danger as a result of my lion’s release. In a concrete sense, this means that if the prisoner exchange continues, these people must be informed. They can then go to court.
“We will have a procedure before the first instance court anyway,” constitutional expert Johan Vande Lanotte told the newspaper on Friday. VRT. “The good news for the Vandecasteele family is: It is possible. But there is no certainty yet.”
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