| 6 December 2023, Wednesday |

Belgium, Iran conduct prisoner swap in Oman

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.

Oman’s Foreign Ministry said that “those released were transferred from Tehran and Brussels to Muscat today, Friday, in preparation for their return to their countries.” It added that “the Sultanate of Oman appreciated the high positive spirit that prevailed in the talks in Muscat between the Iranian and Belgian sides, and their keenness to settle this humanitarian issue.”

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.

Both countries rejected the charges against their citizen as fabricated.

“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.

Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said is scheduled to travel to Iran on Sunday for a two-day visit.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat