Iranian Government agrees to Vandecasteele prisoner swap

Iranian Government agrees to Vandecasteele prisoner swap
Credit: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga.

The Iranian Government has agreed to proceed with the planned prisoner swap between Iran and Belgium, which would see Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele released from an Iranian prison. Iran's confirmation comes after Belgium's Constitutional Court rejected a prior suspension of the swap on Friday.

"This opens up the route for the agreement to be implemented," a spokesperson for Iran's Foreign Affairs Ministry stated, "which the Islamic Republic of Iran applauds" after having wrongfully imprisoned Vandecasteele for over a year.

The Belgian had been working at various NGOs in Iran when he was arrested on false charges of espionage. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, 74 lashes and a $1 million fine.

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To resolve the situation, Belgium and Iran had agreed to a prisoner swap treaty, which would see Vandecaastle released in exchange for Iranian national Assadollah Assadi, who was imprisoned in Belgium for his role in a foiled bombing plot.

Belgium's Constitutional Court had initially rejected the swap over fears that Assadi would escape punishment if he were sent back to Iran.

An appeal against the initial court ruling was lodged, with a decision on the matter set to be issued on 8 March.

However, the Constitutional Court reached their decision on Friday, allowing the prisoner swap to go ahead.

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