Iran frees Belgian humanitarian worker Olivier Vandecasteele

Brussels, May 26 (EFE).- The humanitarian worker Olivier Vandecasteele, detained in Iran since February 2022, has been released and is on his way to Belgium, according to Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo on Friday.

“Olivier Vandecasteele is on his way to Belgium. If everything goes as planned, he will be with us tonight. Finally free,” De Croo said in a statement.

According to the Belgian prime minister, Vandecasteele flew last night to Oman, where he was attended by a team of Belgian military and diplomatic personnel.

De Croo said the humanitarian worker had undergone several medical examinations to assess his health status and ensure he could return home in the best possible conditions.

The Oman authorities, in a statement, confirmed the Belgian citizen’s arrival, and its role in facilitating a prisoner exchange between the two countries.

“To fulfill the requests of the Iranian and Belgian governments to assist in resolving the issue of detained citizens in both countries, the Omani efforts have resulted in an agreement,” the statement said.

A month ago, Iran said it would “soon” conduct a prisoner exchange with Belgium, which could mean the release of the former Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi and the Belgian humanitarian worker.

Iran detained 41-year-old humanitarian worker Vandecasteele in February 2022 and in January upheld his sentence to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes for espionage, cooperation with the United States and currency smuggling, among other crimes.

Since then, the Belgian authorities had insistently demanded his release.

In turn, Tehran has demanded from Brussels the return of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, who is serving a 21-year prison sentence in Belgium for terrorism for attempting to attack a meeting of opponents of the Iranian regime in 2018 in Paris.

Iran has been accused of using prisoners of dual nationality and other countries as a pressure tactic or for the exchange of prisoners with other states, a practice described as “hostage diplomacy” by other countries and human rights organizations. EFE


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