Iran has sentenced a Belgian aid worker who has been jailed in the country for 10 months to 28 years in prison, Belgium’s government says.
Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said on December 14 that Olivier Vandencasteele was sentenced for a “fabricated series of crimes” as retribution for a prison sentence handed by a Belgian court to an Iranian diplomat last year.
Van Quickenborne told Belgium’s parliament that the government was doing everything possible to secure his release, saying, “This is a compatriot who was innocently arrested in February and has been held under inhumane conditions since”.
The family said in a statement that the charges against Vandecasteele remained "unknown”.
Iranian officials did not immediately comment.
The announcement comes after the Belgian constitutional court suspended last week an agreement between Tehran and Brussels that would have made it possible for them to swap prisoners.
Belgian media suggested the 41-year-old Vandencasteele might be swapped for Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian who was found guilty of attempted terrorism and sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium for a foiled plot to bomb a 2018 rally of a French-based dissident group. Tehran has dismissed the terrorism charges.
Western countries have repeatedly accused Iran of taking dual and foreign nationals hostage for the sole purpose of using them in prisoner swaps.