Alwaght- Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat detained in Belgium on false terror-related charges, has been released after an Omani-brokered deal and is on his way back to his home country, Iran’s foreign minister said.
Hossein Amir-Abdollahian made the statement in a Persian-language post on his Twitter account on Friday after Oman’s foreign ministry officially announced that Muscat had mediated a deal between Iran and Belgium to swap their prisoners.
“Mr. Assadollah Assadi, the innocent diplomat of our country, who was illegally detained in Germany and Belgium for more than two years against international law, is now on his way back to his homeland and will soon enter our beloved Iran,” Amir-Abdollahian said.
“I thank the Sultanate of Oman for its positive efforts in this direction.”
Assadi’s case, according to legal experts, was based on sham and unsubstantiated charges and smacks of political propaganda against the Islamic Republic.
Belgian authorities in June 2018 said the country’s police had intercepted a car carrying homemade explosives, claiming that the Iranian diplomat handed the material to two people in Belgium. He was accused of plotting an attack against the anti-Iran Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO) terrorist outfit, a claim that has been strongly rejected by Iranian authorities.
A Belgian court then sentenced the diplomat, who serves as the third counselor at Iran's Embassy in Vienna, to 20 years in prison.
Spox: Assadi taken hostage on Israeli plot
Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kan'ani also announced in a statement that Assadi will return to the country after "five years in captivity".
Kan'ani noted that Assadi had been "taken hostage" during a plot designed by the Israeli regime and cooperation of some European intelligence services.
"The Zionist-American 'big lie' scenario went on stage with the aim of creating crisis in relations between Iran and Europe and this plot happened right after the US withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran," he said.
Kan'ani also said that some European governments, influenced by Israel and Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) terrorist group, violated international law by arresting and sentencing Asadi to 20 years in prison after a "political and sham trial".
Iran had always protested and condemned the violation of Asadi's diplomatic immunity and tried hard to free him, Kan'ani said, adding that an agreement was reached to release Asadi following negotiations between foreign ministers of Iran and Belgium.
Iran's top human rights official also commented on the development in a Persian-language tweet on Friday, stating that Assadi had been "unlawfully" detained in Belgium.
Assadi's release is the "outcome of efforts by responsible authorities to defend the rights of their fellow citizens abroad," said Kazem Gharibabadi, secretary of Iran's High Council for Human Rights, promising to continue such efforts.
The news came shortly after Oman’s foreign ministry officially announced that the country had “successfully” managed to broker a deal between Iran and Belgium to exchange their prisoners.
“The Omani efforts have resulted in an agreement between the two sides for a mutual exchange deal,” the ministry’s website said in a statement on Friday.
“The Sultanate of Oman appreciates the positive high level spirit that prevailed during the discussions in Muscat between the Iranian and Belgian sides, and their commitment to resolving this humanitarian issue,” the statement added.
The Omani foreign ministry also announced that the released individuals had been transported from Tehran and Brussels to Muscat in preparation for their return to their respective countries.
Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander de Croo confirmed that Olivier Vandecasteele had arrived in Oman.
The 42-year-old had been convicted by the Iranian Judiciary of four charges, including spying activities, collusion with the United States, currency smuggling and money laundering.
The Judiciary sentenced the Belgian citizen, working under the guise an aid worker, to a total of 40 years in prison earlier in the year.