House committee urges immediate release of Olivier Vandecasteele

House committee urges immediate release of Olivier Vandecasteele
Credit: Belga

The Belgian Chamber's Foreign Relations Committee has unanimously backed a resolution urging the government to use “all diplomatic means” to secure the immediate release of Olivier Vandecasteele.

The Belgian aid worker has been detained in Iran for almost a year. He was recently sentenced to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes for, among other things, espionage, although Iranian authorities have not confirmed that information from the Iranian press.

The Belgian government is pressing for Vandecasteelde’s release and, in the meantime, for an improvement in his detention conditions, but that has not yet yielded the desired result.

In a resolution moved by Open VLD legislator Jasper Pillen, the parliamentarians condemned Vandecasteele’s arbitrary arrest, and the sham trial that led to his detention. They also asked the government, among other things, to use “all diplomatic means” to plead with the Iranian authorities for Vandecasteele’s “immediate and unconditional release” and to prevent possible torture or other ill-treatment.

The parliamentarians also want the Belgian government to place the issue on the agenda of the next European summit.

On Wednesday, Nathalie Vandecasteele, Olivier’s sister, is scheduled to address the Foreign Relations Committee.

The aid worker’s family is also in the dark about his fate.

Earlier, the Open VLD group in parliament called on Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib (Mouvement Réformateur) to travel to Iran to defend Vandecasteele’s interests and ascertain his condition. Vandecasteele was on a partial hunger strike for some time and is said to be severely emaciated.

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