The secret treaty between Iran and Belgium on the exchange of prisoners, concerning VUB lecturer Ahmadreza Djalali and the Iranian mastermind behind a failed terrorist attack in France, is facing growing criticism.
The treaty would mean the possible release of the Swedish-Iranian scientist and VUB guest lecturer Ahmadreza Djalali, who was arrested during a working visit to Iran six years ago and is accused of espionage, for which was sentenced to death in October 2017.
However, saving Djalali would also grant freedom to Assadolah Assadi, the mastermind behind a failed terrorist attack in France on an Iranian opposition organisation, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), for which he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium.
The leader of the Flemish separatist N-VA party, Theo Francken, called the agreement with Iran “criminal”. Other N-VA members also expressed their criticism.
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Members of the Iranian opposition warn of the consequences, as prisoners who were released after such an agreement in the past were welcomed as heroes on their return to Iran or even made a career in the country’s administration. The opposition called the exchange treaty “a complete disgrace”.
Even a Republican representative in the United States expressed his concern: “I am shocked that the Belgian government is making a deal with the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world and plans to send an Iranian terrorist back to Iran where he can hatch more terrorist plans,” Randy Weber tweeted. The Texan MP is known for anti-abortion and pro-weaponisation stances.
Meanwhile, the cabinet of Justice Minister Van Quickenborne insists that there is no connection whatsoever between this treaty and a possible exchange of Assadi and Djalali. At the same time, there are no arguments as to why this treaty is necessary.
On Tuesday, a debate will take place in the Federal Parliament, where attention will also be paid to the fate of Ahmadreza Djalali, the VUB lecturer.
“I know about the opposition to the bill, but I hope they understand our situation too,” said Vida Mehrannia, Djalali’s wife.
“A lot of people can’t imagine what it’s like to go to sleep for six years with the idea that Iran could execute him at any moment. I am not a politician, but I hope the Belgian government and people will support Ahmadreza as they always have.”