Vandecasteele release criticised as 'shameful ransom' by Iranian opposition

Vandecasteele release criticised as 'shameful ransom' by Iranian opposition
Credit: Belga / Hatim Kaghat

The Belgian government has been criticised for paying a "shameful ransom" in swapping Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat convicted for plotting a terrorist attack, to secure the release of Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele.

As confirmed by Iran's Foreign Affairs Minister Amir-Abdollahian, Assadi has been released from Belgian prison, having been previously detained on terrorism charges. His release was a pre-requisite for Vandecasteele's release, who had been arrested in Iran on false charges of espionage.

Assadi's release has been heavily criticised by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an organisation that represents exiled Iranian dissidents. The diplomat had been arrested after his plan of carrying out a terror attack on an Iranian opposition group in France was foiled in 2018.

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The NCRI labelled the prisoner swap a "shameful ransom" that "will encourage the religious fascism in power in Iran to continue its crimes".

The organisation also recalled a prior ruling from the Constitutional Court which suspended the planned prisoner swap, calling on the Belgian Government to "inform the victims before transferring the convicted, so that they have the opportunity to return to court."

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