Belgian officials say the Islamic Republic of Iran has imposed a 28-year sentence on jailed aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele.
Belgium’s Justice Minister said on Wednesday that Vandecasteele has been sentenced for a “fabricated series of crimes”, stressing that Brussels was doing everything possible to secure his release.
Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said in parliament that Vandencasteele had been sentenced as retribution for a jail sentence the country imposed on a former Iranian diplomat last year convicted on terror charges.
“This is a compatriot who was innocently arrested in February and has been held under inhumane conditions since,” he added.
The sentence was announced less than 24 hours after a phone conversation between the foreign ministers of Iran and Belgium, the AFP reported.
The detention could be another example of the often-used Iranian tactic of imprisoning foreigners as hostages to exchange them with certain Iranians jailed in Western countries.
Vandecasteele, 41, has served in various international humanitarian organizations since at least 2006, including, Médecins du Monde, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and Relief International.
In July 2021, Relief International ended its relationship with Vandecasteele.
He, however, later returned to Iran on a tourist visa to visit a friend. It is possible that his return to Iran was an arranged trap by Iranian intelligence to detain and exchange him with Assadollah Assadi.
Assadollah Assadi is serving a 20-year prison sentence in Belgium for planning a terror attack in Paris four years ago.