US may intervene in Belgium-Iran deal with extradition request

US may intervene in Belgium-Iran deal with extradition request
Credit: Belga / Dirk Waem

The US may intervene in the prisoner exchange deal between Iran and Belgium, and send an extradition request to Belgium for Iranian diplomat Assodollah Assadi, reported Het Laatste Nieuws and De Morgen on Monday.

The move would impede Belgium from carrying out the prisoner exchange deal with Iran Assadi was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2021 by an Antwerp court over a plot to bomb a 2018 rally of an Iranian opposition group in Paris.

The US has spoken out firmly against the deal and believes it has a case for an extradition request as Assadi has previously targeted Americans. There were also Americans present at the 2018 rally in Paris.

Belgium's Federal Government is mulling over a deal that would return Assadi to Iran in order to free the imprisoned Belgium development worker Olivier Vandecasteele and also Swedish-Iranian VUB teacher Ahmadreza Djalali.

A 'divisive' treaty

The move has been called "divisive" by Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, who has faced criticism from both inside and outside the parliament for the proposed exchange of prisoners treaty with Iran.

Federal MPs worry that the treaty could give in to future blackmail by the Iranian regime, who could then repatriate convicted Iranians by using Belgians as ransom. In addition to this, the Iranian community in Brussels voiced their opposition to the treaty in a protest earlier in July.

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Despite opposition, Belgium's parliament has already approved a treaty to enable the prisoner exchange, which prompted the Iranian opposition group NCRI (the National Council of the Iranian Resistance) to plead against the case in court.

As a result, the Brussels appeals court on Friday banned the government from handing over Assadi, with non-compliance resulting in a penalty of €500,000. However, the ban isn't final.

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