Iran’s judiciary says a Belgian aid worker who has been jailed in the country for nearly one year has been sentenced to a total of 40 years in prison and dozens of lashes on four charges including espionage.
Following a closed-door trial, the Tehran Islamic Revolution Court sentenced Olivier Vandecasteele to 12.5 years in prison for espionage, 12.5 years for collaboration with hostile governments and 12.5 years for money laundering, the judiciary’s Mizan Online website said on January 10.
The 41-year-old Vandecasteele was also fined $1 million and sentenced to 2.5 years and 74 lashes for currency smuggling.
Under Iranian law, Vandecasteele would be eligible for release after 12.5 years, Mizan said, adding that the verdicts can be appealed.
Last month, Belgium’s government said that Vandencasteele was sentenced to 28 years in prison for a “fabricated series of crimes” as retribution for a prison sentence handed by a Belgian court to an Iranian diplomat in 2021.
The sentencing comes amid anti-government protests that have convulsed Iran for nearly four months. Iranian officials have blamed the unrest on foreign powers, without providing any evidence.
Belgium and other European countries have urged their nationals to leave Iran, warning that they face the risk of arbitrary arrest or unfair trial.
Western governments have repeatedly accused the Islamic Republic of taking dual and foreign nationals hostage for the sole purpose of using them in prisoner swaps.