Belgian police at Antwerp criminal court during the sentencing of Assadollah Asadi (Photo Credit: DIRK WAEM/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images)
The Belgian parliament discussed a government plan on 6 July to ratify a prisoner exchange treaty with the Islamic Republic of Iran. If successful, the treaty would be an unprecedented decision among European countries.
The treaty would permit Belgian nationals to serve their sentence in their home country for crimes committed in Iran, and similarly for Iranians convicted in Belgium.
It would also allow either party to grant amnesty to their nationals as soon as they land in their respective countries.
However, this potential agreement has triggered condemnation by European and US officials, accusing Belgium of corroding Europe’s security by enabling “terrorist acts” on European soil.
“A Belgium-Iran treaty must uphold Belgium’s international obligations and cannot grant impunity to Assadollah Asadi or any other actor responsible for human rights violations and heinous acts of terrorism,” the head of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez said.
Similar statements were echoed by representatives of Mujahideen-e-Khalk (MEK), whose members were subjected to the alleged terrorist plot by Asadi at a rally in France.
“Our country is signing a treaty with a terrorist state purely for the purpose of extraditing terrorists to Iran,” said Rik Vanreusel, the lawyer representing several MEK-affiliated opposition figures.
July 6 – Brussels, Belgium
Supporters of the Iranian Resistance continue protest rallies, calling on the Belgian government to cancel a deal that would allow convicted terrorist Assadollah Assadi to return to #Iran.#DontFreeTerrorists #No2Appeasement pic.twitter.com/UBHBEorB5u
— People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) (@Mojahedineng) July 6, 2022
Assadollah Asadi, an Iranian diplomat stationed at the embassy in Austria, was arrested on German soil and accused of transporting explosives in a diplomatic suitcase intended to target a rally held by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in France.
The 500 grams of the highly unstable explosive material Triacetone triperoxide (TATP) were seized from a Belgian-Iranian couple in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre municipality, Belgium.
Asadi was handed the maximum sentence of 20 years, while Mehrdad Arefani was sentenced to 17 years, and Nasimeh Naami and Amir Saadouni were sentenced to 18 years.
On the other hand, Belgium denied the accusation of colluding with Iran, stating that the matter transcends the case of Asadi. “There is no link with any individual file,” the spokesperson of the Belgian minister of justice said.
According to international media, Iran holds two Belgian nationals hostage, including aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele.
The director of Relief International, Vandecasteele was arrested in February on espionage charges.
“If the bill is not fully approved, the threat to our Belgian interests and certain Belgian citizens will increase. I weigh my words: there are human lives at stake. These are not my words but those of the security services,” Belgium’s Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said.
Currently, there are at least 12 dual nationals jailed in Iran sentenced either for espionage charges or for conspiring against Iranian interests.
Similarly, a large number of Iranians are imprisoned in the US and Europe for alleged terrorist plots and for bypassing sanctions on Iran.