Belgium finalizes treaty to release Iranian terrorist

The Belgian government has argued that the treaty could secure the release of Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele, detained in Iran in February.

 Police officers are seen before a trial of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, charged in Belgium with planning to bomb a meeting of an exiled Iranian opposition group in France, at the court building in Antwerp, Belgium November 27, 2020.  (photo credit:  REUTERS/JOHANNA GERON)
Police officers are seen before a trial of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, charged in Belgium with planning to bomb a meeting of an exiled Iranian opposition group in France, at the court building in Antwerp, Belgium November 27, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/JOHANNA GERON)

The Belgian Parliament ratified a treaty with Iran on Wednesday night allowing Brussels to release an Iranian terrorist convicted of trying to bomb an anti-regime rally, with 79 MPs in favor and 41 opposed.

Brussels will now be able to release Assadollah Assadi, who only served a year of his 20-year sentence for plotting to bomb a rally of the exiled opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, near Paris in 2018.

The Belgian government has argued that the treaty could secure the release of Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele, detained in Iran in February. Brussels University Prof. Ahmadreza Djalali, who has dual Iranian-Swedish citizenship, has also been held by Iran since 2016 on trumped-up charges of espionage.

Lawmaker Francois de Smet, leader of the opposition Defi Party, tweeted, “Belgium is sending the message that its justice is for sale.”

De Smet quoted philosopher Hannah Arendt as saying, “Those who say they choose the lesser evil quickly forget that they have ultimately chosen evil.”

 Michael Freilich, Federaal Kamerlid (N-VA) (credit: Courtesy) Michael Freilich, Federaal Kamerlid (N-VA) (credit: Courtesy)

MP Michael Freilich called the deal “scandalous” in a tweet after the vote.

Addressing MPs who called the deal a surrender to blackmail from Tehran, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said last week, “What would you say to his family; that we will let [Vandecasteele] rot in his cell? Belgium does not abandon its citizens.”

Freilich said earlier this month, “Belgium is making a grave mistake by yielding to blackmail, and I think we are opening the gates to hell by signing this treaty with the devil. Iran will know it can act with impunity, because if its people who work under diplomatic cover get caught, they always have the possibility to come back to their country through these swaps, this blackmail.”

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) tweeted earlier in July, “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. Iran must be held to account for backing terrorism and taking hostages for leverage.”

In addition, a bipartisan group of 13 members of the US Congress wrote to De Croo, urging him not to release Assadi.