Two members of the Austrian parliament have joined a group of Iranian human rights activists for a second day of sit-ins in front of the Belgian embassy in Vienna.
Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic, a Green Party MP and the party’s spokeswoman for foreign affairs and rights, and fellow MP David Stögmüller, spoke out at Wednesday’s demonstration against a proposed deal on “transferrals of convicted persons” between Belgium and the Islamic Republic.
Tomorrow the Belgian parliament is expected to pass a draft bill allowing the two governments to send convicted nationals back to their native country to serve their sentence - or be pardoned if the other country sees fit.
Critics of the deal say it paves the way for future prisoner exchanges and could therefore embolden the Islamic Republic in its already-known policy of hostage taking. Ernst-Dziedzic went further on Wednesday, warning that it could also make room for “acts of terror” to be committed on European soil without reprisal.
In 2018, an Iranian diplomat based in Vienna, Asadollah Asadi, was arrested for his part in a bomb plot targeting an opposition MEK rally in Paris.
He was later sentenced by a Belgian court to 20 years in jail. There are now fears that if the deal goes ahead, he and his three co-conspirators could be released and potentially pardoned in Iran.
Tehran has since detained two Belgian nationals – one of them a 41-year-old aid worker named Olivier Vandecasteele – who some believe are being held as hostages.