Olivier Vandecasteele: Friday marks one-year anniversary of imprisonment in Iran

Olivier Vandecasteele: Friday marks one-year anniversary of imprisonment in Iran
Action in support of Olivier Vandecasteele, organised by the Olivier Vandecasteele Support Committee and Amnesty International, Sunday 22 January 2023. Credit: Belga/Hatim Kaghat

Friday will mark one year since the Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele was arrested by Iranian authorities, with a silent candle vigil being organised by friends and family on Sunday 26 February.

Rallies will be held calling for Vandecasteele's release this weekend not only in Belgium but also in France. In Brussels, people will gather at the Mont des Arts at 18:30 on Sunday evening.

Despite Vandecasteele's name and face being plastered on various buildings across Belgium, his friends and family still do not know if they will ever see him again.

He was recently sentenced to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes after a sham trial found him guilty of espionage.

Having spent six years working at various NGOs in Iran, Vandecaasteele had attempted to leave the country in February of last year. He was duly arrested on suspicion of being a spy, a common accusation levied by Iranian authorities. Over a year later, he is still being detained, with his health said to be deteriorating.

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The Belgian Government has tried to ascertain his release by organising a prisoner swap between Vandecasteele and Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian detainee who had been sentenced to 20 years in an Antwerp prison for plotting a bomb attack.

However, given his status as a terrorist, the proposed swap between Assadi and Vandecasteele was suspended by the Constitutional Court which will re-examine the case on 8 March.

There are two Belgian petitions to sign in support of Olivier, Amnesty International België Vlaanderen and Amnesty International Belgique francophone.

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