Several hundred supporters of the Iranian opposition demonstrated against the Iran deal, which will possibly allow the extradition of convicted Iranian terrorist Assadollah Assadi in exchange for Belgian prisoners in Iran.
According to the National Council for the Resistance in Iran (NCRI), the opposition group that organised the demonstration, about 2,000 demonstrators came together on Thursday morning, while the local police said there were 800 protestors, Bruzz reports.
Last week, the Foreign Relations Committee approved the controversial bill that would allow Belgium and Iran to exchange prisoners. Critics say the deal is set up to release Iranian diplomat and terrorist Assadollah Assadi, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium for planning a bomb attack in Paris.
In Iran, Swedish-Iranian VUB professor Ahmadreza Djalali is on death sentence and Belgian NGO worker Olivier Vandecasteele has been imprisoned without charge. The Iranian opposition calls this “hostage diplomacy”, whereby Iran takes hostages from countries where Iranian terrorists have been convicted in order to bring them back into the country.
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The NCRI gathered in Surlet de Chokier Square, a stone’s throw away from the federal parliament, to protest the bill, which will be on the agenda of the plenary meeting next week.
The leader of the NCRI, Maryam Rajavi, is said to have been Assadi's main target in Paris. She called the negotiations with the Iranian regime over hostages “one step forward and a hundred steps back”, as “any European and American citizen in Iran could become the next hostage”.
Belgian MPs Koen Metsu and Theo Francken showed their support for the Iranian protestors, as Francken pressured opposition MPs to “vote against, abstain or simply not show up for the vote”. Calling the situation a “moral dilemma”, he is concerned that a deal with Iran would encourage the regime to jail even more innocents or deal with dissidents.
Many of the protestors were also present in Paris at the time Assadi was supposed to carry out his attack, according to NCRI member Behzad Naziri. “They counted on Belgium as a constitutional state,” he said. “They didn’t think a religious dictatorship could dictate its will. Because that’s what’s happening right now.”