BRUSSELS: A Belgian aid worker jailed in Iran and an Iranian diplomat imprisoned in Belgium were freed on Friday in an exchange mediated by Oman, both sides said.
Aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele was arrested on a visit to Iran in February 2022 and sentenced in January to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes on charges including spying.
Iranian diplomat Asadollah Assadi was convicted in Belgium in 2021 in connection with a foiled bomb plot in France and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
“As I speak, Belgium’s Olivier Vandecasteele is on his way to Belgium. If all goes to plan, he’ll be with us this evening. Free at last,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in on Friday.
“Last night Olivier was flown to Oman where he was looked after by a team of Belgian soldiers and diplomats. This morning he underwent a number of medical examinations to assess his state of health and to enable him to return in the best possible conditions”, De Croo added.
Iranian state TV reported that Assadi had arrived back in Tehran and showed him sitting with officials including government spokesman Ali Bahadori Jahromi.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian described Assadi in a Twitter post as “our country’s innocent diplomat who was illegally arrested against international law”, and said he would return to Iran soon.
Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2023