Belgian Olivier Vandecasteele released in prisoner exchange
Belgian humanitarian Olivier Vandecasteele, who was detained in Iran, was released on Friday as part of a “mutual exchange” agreement for two detainees between Iran and Belgium, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced.
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Belgian humanitarian Olivier Vandecasteele, detained in Iran for 455 days, was released after an exchange of prisoners between Brussels and Tehran facilitated by Oman, several senior officials announced on Friday May 26.
“Olivier spent 455 days in prison in Tehran. In unbearable conditions. Innocent. If everything goes as planned, he will be with us tonight. Finally free,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, without referring to an exchange of detainees.
For its part, the Sultanate of Oman, mediator between Tehran and Western countries, indicated that the humanitarian had been released as part of a “mutual exchange” of two detainees between Iran and Belgium. The two ex-detainees “were transported from Tehran and Brussels to Muscat today (Friday) for their return to their respective countries”, specified the sultanate, without giving details on the identity of the Iranian .
Mutual Transfer Treaty
At the end of April, Belgium had indicated that it was “examining” Tehran’s request for the transfer of an Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, sentenced in Antwerp in 2021 to twenty years in prison for a planned attack which was to target a meeting of the National Council of the Iranian resistance (NCRI, coalition of opponents) in 2018 in France.
A treaty for the mutual transfer of convicts signed in 2022 between Belgium and Iran and which entered into force on April 18 paved the way for this exchange.
Dozens of Westerners are detained in Iran, described by their supporters as innocent people used by Tehran as leverage and bargaining chip.
Arrested on February 24, 2022 in Tehran, Olivier Vandecasteele, 42, had been convicted of “espionage”. According to Belgium, he was at the heart of “blackmail”, and treated “in an inhuman way”.