Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Belgium denies agreement reached to free jailed Iranian diplomat

Belgium has denied reports of a prisoner swap agreement with Iran that would see the release of an Iranian diplomat serving a 20-year jail sentence in the European country.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, spokesman for Iran’s Judiciary Massoud Setayeshi said Tehran has made a request regarding the transfer of Assadollah Assadi after the Belgian side submitted a request for the exchange of a prisoner detained in Iran.

An agreement between Iran and Belgium has been finalized, he stated, adding that the deal came after both Belgium and Iran asked for a prisoner swap.

But a spokesperson for Belgian Justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne denied a deal had been reached.

“This is a false message…”, Van Quickenborne said to Belgian public broadcaster VTM.

“They do this to manipulate and confuse an innocent compatriot and his family,” he added.

He also denied there would be a prison swap with another Belgian.

In February 2021, a Belgian court sentenced Assadi to 20 years in prison after accusing him of planning an alleged attack against the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO).

Iran’s Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the jail term as completely unlawful at the time, saying it is in violation of Assadi’s diplomatic immunity, and a result of Belgium’s falling under the influence of the MKO.

Back in March, Belgium’s Constitutional Court turned down a request for the annulment of a treaty with Iran, which authorizes the exchange of prisoners between the countries.

In line with the deal, Iranians convicted in Belgium would be allowed to serve their sentences at home and vice versa. The treaty paved the way for the release of Assadi.

The so-called “National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI),” an umbrella group of anti-Iran outfits such as the MKO, has been trying to pose some legal challenges to it, alleging that Assadi should remain in prison.

Belgium’s parliament ratified the treaty back last July.

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