22 July 2022 :
Belgium Ratifies Much-Criticized Prisoner Swap Treaty With Iran
Following a heated two-day debate, parliament voted 79-41 in favor of the deal, which had already won approval from a parliamentary commission on July 6.
Prime Minister Alexander de Croo's government has said the treaty is the only solution for the release of Olivier Vandecasteele, a Belgian aid worker jailed in Iran.
Vandecasteele, 41, was detained in Tehran by Iranian authorities in February, apparently without charge.
But critics including members of an exiled Iranian opposition movement say Brussels is backing down in the face of what is in effect hostage-taking by Tehran.
The deal would imply the release and possibly even pardon of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, who was last year sentenced to 20 years in connection with a plot to bomb a rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exiled opposition group, outside Paris in June 2018.
Tehran has demanded that Belgium recognize Assadi's diplomatic status and release him.
The NCRI is the political wing of the exiled Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization, an exiled opposition group that seeks to overthrow the Islamic republic.
“The Iranian Resistance strongly condemns the endorsement of the shameful deal with the clerical regime and considers it the highest incentive for the religious fascism ruling Iran to step up terrorism and to use hostage-taking as much as possible for the release of its arrested terrorists and agents. Many prominent jurists declared this to be a clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373,” reads an NCRI statement condemning the prisoner exchange deal with Tehran.
NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi reiterated that based on the documents of Assadi’s case, back in March 2020 he had threatened terrorist measures against Belgium by Iran-backed armed groups in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
On the other hand, Iranian regime Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani on July 20, during his Wednesday press briefing, said: “We reiterate our demand of the Belgian government once again that it must immediately release this Iranian diplomat. He must be cleared of all charges. They must compensate him for his troubles”.
The Belgian opposition alleged the agreement with Tehran was tailor-made to permit Assadi's release while Iranian exiles have held street protests.
Last week, a group of 11 human-rights organizations appealed to Belgium to cancel the agreement.
In a joint statement released on July 12, the groups said it could result in the release of a convicted terrorist and “legitimize Iran’s hostage-taking.”
The groups warned that the agreement violates the commitment of Belgium and the European Union to hold perpetrators of terrorist acts accountable.
Even with the adoption of this bill, there is a one-month period before it becomes bind.