ISLAMABAD, July 07 (Alliance News): Belgium’s justice minister says Iran has detained one of its citizens for espionage for the past four months as his country prepares to vote in parliament on a controversial prisoner exchange deal with Tehran.
According to the foreign media, Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Vancoucan Bourne told MPs that Iran had arrested the man on February 24 and since then he has been in illegal detention. Identity not revealed.
Belgium last year sentenced an Iranian diplomat to 20 years in prison on terrorism charges for plotting a bombing outside Paris in 2018.
The justice minister did not reveal the identity of the Belgian citizen, but Iran International, a London-based Saudi-funded media outlet, reported that the 41-year-old former Belgian social worker was imprisoned in Iran.
The report said that the arrest of a Belgian citizen was another example of Iran’s detention of foreigners in order to exchange them for Iranians imprisoned in Western countries.
Among the foreign detainees in Iran are Swedish academics who also hold Iranian citizenship and teach at the University of Brussels. Iran has also sentenced them to death on espionage charges.
Vincent van Koeken-Bourne said the Belgian embassy in Tehran visited the prison twice to seek all possible help, while his family informed him of the citizen’s imprisonment.
“I can’t say anything more because of the request of his family,” he said.
The Belgian parliament will vote on Thursday to ratify a bilateral prisoner extradition agreement with Iran.
Presenting the proposed agreement to parliamentarians for discussion, Vincent van Koeken-Bourne warned that if the bill was not passed in its entirety, it would increase the risks to Belgium’s interests and citizens.
Some US lawmakers have called on Belgium to rescind the agreement, which was signed in March.
Randy Weber, a Republican from Texas, said in a tweet that he was surprised to learn that the Belgian government had entered into an agreement with the world’s largest state terrorist country and was sending terrorists back to Iran. He should carry out more acts of terrorism.
Asadullah Asadi, the Iranian ambassador to Belgium, was convicted by a court in February 2021 of terrorism and attempted murder and involvement in a terrorist group.
He is accused of supplying explosives to the Occupied National Council of Resistance in Iran Group (NCRI) on June 30, 2018.
Several European intelligence agencies provided information to Belgium, which stopped the car carrying the bomb and foiled the attack.
According to the report, after a two-year investigation, it was found out that Assadullah Asadi was an Iranian agent under the guise of diplomatic staff.
He was arrested in Germany, where he was denied diplomatic immunity because he worked at the Iranian embassy in Austria and was extradited to Belgium for trial. He did not appeal his sentence. Tehran protested against his sentence.
NCRI lawyers say the proposed agreement between Belgium and Iran was drawn up to allow Assadullah Asadi to return to Iran.
Belgium is embroiled in controversy over the deal, with European countries seeking the resumption of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and the United States, as former US President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal in 2018.
Following the US withdrawal from the deal, Iran has moved its uranium enrichment beyond the level at which it can develop nuclear weapons.