Belgian aid worker Oliver Vandecasteele, sentenced to 40 years in prison by Iran for “espionage”
UPDATE, JUNE 2:
Iran has freed another three imprisoned foreign and dual nationals in return for Belgium’s release of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, convicted over his supervision of a plot to bomb a rally in Paris.
Austrian-Iranian dual nationals Kamran Ghaderi and Massoud Mossaheb and a Danish national are returning to their homes, announced Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg and Danish counterpart Lars Løkke Rasmussen.
Schallenberg said he was “very relieved” that Ghaderi and Mossaheb were freed after “years of arduous imprisonment in Iran”. Rasmussen said he was “happy and relieved that a Danish citizen is on his way home to his family in Denmark after imprisonment in Iran”.
Both foreign ministers thanked compatriots in Oman, who brokered the talks with Iran, and Belgium for “valuable support”.
Businessman Ghaderi was arrested in 2016 and sentenced to 10 years over regime claims that he spied for the US. Mossaheb, also a businessman, was arrested in 2019 and given a 10-year prison sentence.
Amnesty International noted Mossaheb’s “grossly unfair trial for vague national security offenses”, and said he suffered from heart failure and diabetes.
Schallenberg said the Foreign Ministry would spare no effort to secure the release of a third Austrian national in Iran whose case is currently on appeal.
UPDATE, 1444 GMT:
The exchange of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, serving a 20-year sentence in Belgium over his supervision of a bomb plot, for Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele has been confirmed.
Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, who received a 20 yr prison term for plotting to bomb an MEK event in Paris, receives hero’s welcome upon arrival in Tehran. Assadi was released in a prisoner swap deal facilitated by Oman. pic.twitter.com/02G8fal4Cr
— Golnaz Esfandiari (@GEsfandiari) May 26, 2023
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Iran has released Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele, held for 455 days in Tehran’s Evin Prison, in a prisoner swap.
Oman, which brokered the exchange, did not identify the freed Iranian.
However, it is likely to be Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, given a 20-year sentence by a Belgian court in 2021 for his role in a bomb plot.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian posted that Assadi was returning to Iran, thanking Oman for its “positive efforts”, but he later deleted the tweet.
Vandecasteele was given a 40-year prison term in January for “espionage”. Belgium’s Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne told Parliament at the time that the sentence, for a “fabricated series of crimes”, was leverage to obtain the release of Assadi.
See also Iran Sentences Belgium National to 40 Years in Prison
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said on Friday that the aid worker was returning “after 455 days in prison in Tehran in unbearable conditions”.
Eindelijk vrij. Enfin avec nous. pic.twitter.com/XrZzv96nin
— Alexander De Croo 🇧🇪🇪🇺 (@alexanderdecroo) May 26, 2023
Assadi was charged with overseeing a plan to attack a Paris rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
The NCRI is the political branch of the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization, which has sought the overthrow of the Islamic Republic since soon after the 1979 Revolution. It was banned in Iran in 1981, and was listed as a “terrorist” group by the European Union until 2009 and by the US until 2012.
See also Belgium Gives Iranian Diplomat 20-Year Sentence Over Bomb Plot
[Editor’s Note: The commenter is wrong on the fundamentals of the case. The evidence was presented in court and it was *not* primarily based on information from the Mujahedin-e Khalq.
Commenter should read information, rather than Iranian regime propaganda lines, about the case before posting again.]
“Assadi was charged with overseeing a plan to attack a Paris rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.”
No evidence was presented against Assadi for an incident that never happened. It was solely based on “information” provided to Belgian police and intelligence by the MeK. Diplomats are not supposed to be prosecuted and jail by countries hosting their missions in any case. The usual course is to expel them if they are in breach of the law.
The EVIDENCE was presented in COURTS against assadi, he was CONVICTED for his TERRORIST role, he was SENTENCED for HIS role. YOU CAN NOT SPIN THIS INTO VICTORY. ASSADI was a CONVICTED TERRORIST who was SWAPPED for an innocent HOSTAGE taken by TERRORIST Islamic state of iran
[Editor’s Note: The propaganda line from an Iranian State outlet — the “assault” was a plot to bomb a rally in Paris.]
Release of diplomat is major blow for MKO: https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/485216/Release-of-diplomat-is-major-blow-for-MKO-official
“In June 2018, Belgian officials said that two persons in Belgium received homemade bombs from an Iranian diplomat after Belgium’s police had stopped a vehicle carrying the contraband. He was charged of preparing an assault against the MKO, which the Iranian government vehemently denies.”
Iranian media says diplomat jailed with insufficient evidence: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/26/iran-says-diplomat-imprisoned-with-insufficient-evidence
“Assadi’s alleged accomplices, 41-year-old Amir Saadouni, 37-year-old Nasimeh Naami, and 58-year-old Mehrdad Arefani, have testified against him. Assadi has maintained that he does not know them…..The Iranian media outlets have said the alleged accomplices were agents of the MEK, a claim the organisation has previously denied. But MEK supporters regularly staged gatherings and protests in front of Belgian courts where the defendants were present, had a delegation present in the court, and called on authorities to close down Iranian embassies and expel diplomats. The semi-official Tasnim website published images purportedly showing Saadouni and Naami at an undated MEK rally.”
“IRNA also claimed that no traces of explosives or illegal possessions were found at Assadi’s residence in Vienna. The outlet also referenced a 2019 interview with the Osterreich Heute newspaper, in which an Austria Airlines spokesperson denied claims by Belgian authorities that Assadi had carried bomb components in a diplomatic case on board a commercial plane. IRNA published images that purported to show the Belgian intelligence and security service had tried to hack and gain access to Assadi’s administrative email address, which belongs to the Iranian foreign ministry.”
“Iranian media says diplomat jailed with insufficient evidence: ”
reza, you should translate this for your dear goosaleh(cattle)colleagues followers….. somthing like “moooo moooo mooo…”. They deserve to hear what you are saying