February 21. 2024. 7:05

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Belgian Constitutional Court to rule on prisoner swap treaty with Iran

The Belgian Constitutional Court on Friday will decide whether to cancel the Belgium-Iran prisoner swap treaty, which would allow for a Belgian aid worker who is convicted of espionage to be swapped for an Iranian diplomat facing prison for having planned a bomb attack.

Iran sentenced Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes on the grounds of espionage and undermining national security after he spent a whole year in pre-trial detention, where conditions gradually worsened.

To help Vandecasteele, Belgium negotiated a prisoner swap deal with Iran, which would allow for the transfer of Vandecasteele back to Belgium in exchange for Assadolah Assadi – an Iranian diplomat convicted in Belgium for a planned bomb attack on the Iranian opposition in France.

In December, however, the Belgian Constitutional Court suspended the agreement, ruling that Assadi would have been immediately released and thus avoided his sentence had he been sent to Iran.

After the oral hearings, which started on 15 February, the Court now has to determine whether or not the treaty should be cancelled, a decision that was expected by 8 March.

Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib met with her Iranian counterpart on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council summit in Geneva. The two politicians discussed the Vandecasteele case.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo requested the release of the Belgian aid worker and discussed the conditions of his detention in a phone call with his Iranian counterpart, President Ebrahim Raissi.

(Anne-Sophie Gayet | EURACTIV.com)