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Iran's "hostage diplomacy": Belgians sentenced to several years in prison


The Belgian employee of an aid organization faces years of imprisonment. Political tensions between the countries are the reason for Iran's actions, say supporters of the convict.

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Protest against the conviction in Brussels in December

Photo: Nils Quintelier / dpa

According to the authorities, a Belgian employee of an aid organization has to serve several years in prison in Iran.

As the official justice portal »Misan« announced, the development worker Olivier Vandecasteele was sentenced to a total of 27.5 years in prison.

The Revolutionary Court in Tehran therefore imposed 12.5 years in prison for alleged espionage and cooperation with archenemy USA.

The Belgian was also sentenced to 2.5 years in prison, a fine and 74 lashes for alleged money smuggling.

As the AFP news agency reports, Vandecasteele only has to serve twelve and a half years in prison.

He can therefore still appeal against the verdict.

In prison since February

Vandecasteele was arrested in February 2022.

The Belgian government describes his prison conditions as "inhuman".

Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib wrote on Twitter that Iran had never officially provided any information about the charges and the verdict.

In mid-December, Vandecasteele's family announced that, according to their information, the 41-year-old had been sentenced to 28 years in prison on unknown charges.

Several European nationals are currently being held in Iran.

Many of them also have Iranian citizenship.

The security authorities usually justify the arrests with allegations of espionage.

Tehran imposes strict penalties on headscarf violations

Relations between Iran and Belgium are strained.

In December, the Belgian constitutional court put a stop to a controversial exchange of prisoners with Iran.

Vandecasteele was to be exchanged as part of a deal with a convicted Iranian diplomat.

Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium for a 2018 foiled attack on Iranian opposition figures near Paris.

Against this background, supporters of the Belgian and human rights groups see Vandecasteele's conviction as an example of Iranian "hostage diplomacy" - Tehran's attempt to persuade Belgium to release the Iranian diplomat.

The Iranian leadership is also taking strict action against the ongoing protests against the repressive measures in the country.

The Iranian judiciary instructed the authorities to strictly prosecute violations of the headscarf requirement.

As the Iranian news agency "More" reported, the Attorney General's Office issued an order to the police and courts "to strictly punish any hijab violation".

The courts in the country would have to convict the perpetrators of violations of the headscarf obligation, impose fines on them and "additional penalties such as exile, professional ban and closure of their workplace," quoted "More" from the order.

The penalties apply not only to women, but to all violations – including restaurant owners who serve a woman without a hat.

Due to such incidents, several cafes and restaurants have recently been ordered to close.

Despite international condemnation, for example by the UN, another person was sentenced to death in connection with the demonstrations on Tuesday.


Source: spiegel

All news articles on 2023-01-10

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