Belgian Aid Worker, Iranian Diplomat Released in Prisoner Swap

Image copyright: Khashayar Kouchpeydeh [via Unspalsh]

The Facts

  • Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele and Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi were swapped on Friday in Oman following a deal brokered by the Gulf country and a bilateral prisoner exchange treaty signed last year, which was upheld this spring by Belgium's constitutional court.

  • Vandecasteele, who spent 455 days in prison in Tehran, was sentenced in a closed-door trial in January to 40 years in prison, 74 lashes, and a $1M fine on charges of espionage — allegations which Brussels and his family deny.

The Spin

Anti-Iran narrative

While it's great news that Olivier Vandecasteele has been released after being unjustly detained in Iran for over a year, it is shameful that a convicted terrorist needed to be exchanged for his freedom. Assadollah Assadi is a dangerous criminal who plotted a bombing against Iranian dissidents in France. This deal only incentivizes Iran’s illegal detention of foreign nationals to use as pawns to free terrorists, betray human rights, and wield leverage in nuclear deal negotiations.

Pro-Iran narrative

The release of Assadollah Assadi is great news for Iran and justice. After being falsely accused of terrorism and illegally detained for more than two years, he can finally return home to where he belongs. Assadi is a patriot and would never be involved in any terrorist activities, yet Belgium defied international law by detaining him for two years without any rights.

Metaculus Prediction

Establishment split



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