DUBAI/BRUSSELS, April 26 (Reuters) – Belgium said on Wednesday an Iranian diplomat jailed there for 20 years will not soon be released in a prisoner swap, apparently contradicting Iran‘s judiciary.
In March, Belgium’s Constitutional Court upheld a prisoner exchange treaty with Iran that could lead to Asadollah Assadi being swapped for jailed Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele.
“Belgium has requested an exchange and so have we for our diplomat Asadollah Assadi. Following the necessary protocols, such an exchange will be done soon,” Iranian judiciary spokesperson Masoud Setayeshi said on Wednesday.
But a spokesperson for Belgian Justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne denied a deal had been reached.
“This is a false message from a rogue state that specialises in making false statements”, Van Quickenborne said to Belgian public broadcaster VTM.
“They do this to manipulate and confuse an innocent compatriot and his family.”
He also denied there would be a prison swap with another Belgian.
Last week, Belgium submitted a request to Iran that Vandecasteele be sent back to his country in accordance with the prisoner transfer treaty.
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Assadi was jailed for 20-years in 2021 over a 2018 foiled bomb plot targeting an Iranian opposition group in Paris.
Vandecasteele was arrested on a visit to Iran in February 2022 and sentenced in January to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes on several charges including spying.
Belgium repeatedly said there were no grounds for the detention of Vandecasteele, saying he was convicted “for a fabricated series of crimes” and in retribution for Assadi’s jailing.
Iran has called the accusation that Assadi was linked to an attack in Paris a “false flag” stunt by the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran, which it calls a terrorist group.
(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom, Editing by Andrew Heavens, Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie)
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(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom, Editing by Andrew Heavens)