Belgium's Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib has again called her Iranian counterpart, H. Amirabdollahian, to insist on the release of a former aid worker and Belgian national Olivier Vandecasteele as soon as possible.
Vandecasteele has been in an Iranian prison for more than a year after having been recently sentenced to 40 years in jail and 74 lashes. Belgium called his sentencing a sham trial.
Belgian authorities suspect that Vandecasteele is being held as leverage to achieve the release of Assadollah Assadi – a convicted Iranian terrorist who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium in February 2021 for his involvement in a foiled Paris bombing.
"I have, once again, denounced the arbitrary detentions. Our compatriot Olivier Vandecasteele should be released as soon as possible, and in the meantime, his detention conditions should improve. We are keeping the pressure on," Lahbib said on Twitter.
Had a call with my Iranian counterpart @amirabdolahian. I have, once again, denounced the arbitrary detentions. Our compatriot Olivier Vandecasteele should be released asap, and in the meantime his detention conditions should improve. We are keeping the pressure on. pic.twitter.com/C2H1VrxM9g— Hadja Lahbib (@hadjalahbib) March 21, 2023
The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced on Twitter that the two ministers had spoken to each other by telephone. In the same tweet, Iran also criticised the new sanctions that the European Union imposed against the country on Monday.
"The policy of confrontation and sanctions will be met with an appropriate response from the Islamic Republic of Iran," the Ministry said.
An overview of Vandecasteele's situation can be found here.