Iran has reiterated its call for the release of its former officials imprisoned in Europe while a former hostage says Tehran is on the hunt for both Swedes and Belgians to exchange with them.
Foreign ministry’s spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Saturday that Assadollah Assadi, serving a 20-year sentence in Belgium over a terror attack in Paris, and former jailor Hamid Nouri, sentenced to life in prison in Sweden for his role in 1988 prison purges, should be released as their trials were illegal.
He made the remarks as Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an academic previously jailed in Iran for over two years, tweeted on Saturday that “Basically, Iran is on the hunt for both Swedes and Belgians to exchange for Nouri and Assadi,” and shared a report about two Swedes who were sentenced to years in prison on "drugs charges" over prescription painkillers found in their luggage.
Kanaani’s remarks came as numerous Iranian and foreign rights groups have expressed concerns about a prisoner exchange treaty between Belgium and Iran that potentially condones hostage-taking policy by the Islamic Republic and undermines accountability for Iranian officials convicted for acts of terrorism abroad.
Assadi, 50, a former attaché at the Iranian embassy in Austria, was convicted of plotting to bomb a gathering of the exiled opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) near Paris on June 30, 2018. Iran says Nouri’s detention is driven by “false allegations” made by the MEK.
Iran has imprisoned at least a dozen dual nationals and foreigners – most of whom on disputed spying charges -- in recent years as Tehran negotiates for money and influence with the West. Most of them are held on disputed spying charges.