'A step in the wrong direction': Iranians in Brussels protest prisoner transfer treaty

'A step in the wrong direction': Iranians in Brussels protest prisoner transfer treaty
Credit: Sourosh Aboutalebi

The Iranian community in Brussels protested against the extradition treaty between Iran and Belgium, with 350 demonstrators present on Tuesday morning.

During the protest, demonstrators called on Belgian MPs to vote against the draft law, which they believe is against international law and will undermine Belgium’s credibility.

"It is unacceptable. If we do this, we encourage the regime to take even more people hostage. It’s like rolling out a red carpet for Iranian terrorists in Belgium," said Behzad Nazari of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Exchange treaty

The extradition treaty would likely grant freedom to Iranian diplomat and terrorist Asadollah Assadi, who planned a failed terrorist attack in Paris on the Iranian opposition organisation, the NCRI, for which he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium.

In exchange, Iran would return Swedish-Iranian VUB guest lecturer Ahmadreza Djalali, who was arrested on a work trip and sentenced to death in Iran for alleged espionage, as well as Belgian NGO employee Olivier Vandecasteele who has been detained in Tehran without charge.

The Belgian Parliament is discussing the treaty on Tuesday. If signed, Belgium will be the first Western country to conclude such a deal with Iran, which has brought up a lot of criticism from different individuals and organisations.

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“Let there be no illusion,” Behzad Nazari of NCRI said in a press briefing on Tuesday. “This is a treaty with the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism, and it is only designed to set free a convicted terrorist.”

Nazar said it will have serious consequences for security in Belgium and Europe as a whole, as it will embolden the Iranian regime to further engage in terrorism on the continent. “Belgian judiciary should be proud that they stood firm and showed their independence by a fair investigation and a fair trial.”

'A step in the wrong direction'

Rik Vanreusel, the lawyer of 25 Iranian politicians who were targeted in the planned terrorist attack, said the four-year legal battle has not only been against four terrorists, but against the Iranian regime.

“This treaty does not give our country any guarantee that it will not be at the front door of Europe again,” Vanreusel said. “Do we not legitimise the hostage policy that Iran has been following for years with this treaty?”

“We have escaped a heavy bombing attack, what are we going to say about the next victims that fall?” he wonders. “It’s a step in the wrong direction.”

A smaller demonstration in support of the Iranian people took place in Brussels at the end of May.

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