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Rights Groups Urge Belgium To Cancel Prisoner-Swap Accord With Iran

By RFE/RL's Radio Farda July 13, 2022

A group of 11 human rights organizations have appealed to Belgium to cancel a recent agreement with Iran on the mutual exchange of prisoners.

In a joint statement released on July 12, the groups appealed to the Belgian parliament to cancel the accord, saying it could result in the release of a convicted terrorist and "legitimize Iran's hostage-taking."

The groups warned that the agreement violated the commitment of Belgium and the European Union to hold perpetrators of terrorist acts accountable.

According to the Belgian newspaper De Morgen, the accord was expected to pave the way for the release of Ahmadreza Djalali, a Brussels university professor with dual Iranian-Swedish citizenship who has been held in Iran since 2016 and has been convicted of espionage, and Olivier Vandecasteele, a Belgian aid worker who has been held in isolation in Iran for five months after being accused of spying.

Iran has called for the release of Assadollah Assadi, sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium in 2021 in connection with a plot to bomb a rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exiled opposition group, outside Paris in June 2018.

The NCRI is the political wing of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO or MEK), an exiled opposition group that seeks to overthrow the Islamic republic.

The Foreign Relations Committee of Belgium's lower house of parliament debated the treaty over two days before finally approving it on July 6.

The measure still needs to be put before the full 150-member lower house, but the chamber normally follows the votes of its committees.

The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, the Siamak Pourzand Foundation, the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, and the Kurdistan Human Rights Network are among the signatories of the statement.

They have warned that Belgium should not facilitate the "shameless use of human lives as a tool" by the authorities of the Islamic republic.

With writing and reporting by Ardeshir Tayebi

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-ngos-protest-belgian- prisoner-swap/31941959.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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