Iran has released Olivier Vandecasteele, a Belgian humanitarian worker who has been detained in Iran for more than a year, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in a statement Friday.
“Olivier Vandecasteele is on his way to Belgium,” De Croo said. “If all goes as planned, he will be with us tonight.”
A Belgian official confirmed to POLITICO that one individual was on his way to Iran as part of a prisoner swap.
According to Belgian public broadcaster RTBF, the individual in question is an Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison by an Antwerp court in 2021 for plotting a bomb attack against a rally organized by Iranian dissidents near Paris.
Belgium and Iran have been negotiating for months over a controversial bilateral treaty which would allow Iranians convicted in Belgium to serve their sentence in Iran, and vice versa.
The deal was approved by Belgium’s highest court in March, paving the way for the prisoner swap.
Vandecasteele was sentenced to 40 years in prison over four different charges: spying on Iran, cooperating with the U.S. against Iran, currency smuggling and money laundering.
The Belgian government has said the charges were “fabricated” and has been pushing for Vandecasteele’s release.
This is a developing story.