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Prisoners

Family Of Belgian Aid Worker Jailed In Iran Raise Alarm Over His Health

November 30, 2022
2 min read
Western countries accuse Iran of taking dual and foreign nationals hostage for the sole purpose of using them in prisoner swaps.
Western countries accuse Iran of taking dual and foreign nationals hostage for the sole purpose of using them in prisoner swaps.

The family of a Belgian man jailed in Iran for more than nine months say his health deteriorated sharply after he started a hunger strike to protest the "inhumane" conditions of his incarceration.

Olivier Vandecasteele, a 41-year-old aid worker, was detained by Iranian authorities in February 24. It remains unknown what he is accused of.

Vandecasteele’s family said on November 29 that they feared his detention in solitary confinement, along with his hunger strike that started about two weeks ago, have caused “significant weight loss, the formation of blood bags in the toes, the loss of nails, worrying dental and gastric problems”.

The family said in a statement that the Belgian consular services in Iran were able to speak with Vandecasteele earlier this week. It emerged from the interview that the man now accumulates “278 days in complete isolation in a windowless basement cell”, they said.

These conditions of incarceration are "equivalent to torture according to the UN definition", according to the statement.

Vandecasteele told Belgium’s consular services he had appeared in court without the Belgian authorities and his Iranian lawyers being informed. During the hearing, he was not informed of the charges against him.

The family asked the Iranian authorities to “show moderation” in the treatment inflicted on their relative and the Belgian government to do everything possible to have him released.

Vandecasteele has been at the center of a controversy over a criticized treaty allowing prisoner exchanges with Iran.

Tehran is reportedly seeking a prisoner exchange with Brussels to take back Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, who was sentenced last year to 20 years in prison in connection with a 2018 plot to bomb a rally of an exiled opposition group outside Paris.

Western countries have repeatedly charged that Iran is trying to take advantage of foreign countries by taking dual and foreign nationals hostage and then using them in prisoner swaps.

Earlier this month, Iran’s judiciary said 40 foreign nationals had been arrested across the country for allegedly playing a role in the ongoing unrest sparked by the death of a young woman while she was detained for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.

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