Washington, DC – NUFDI once again expresses our sincere concerns about threats to Iranian activists living in the United States and the broader Iranian American community posed by the dictatorship in Iran. After recent news of the Belgian government’s proposed adoption of a prisoner exchange treaty, including with the Islamic Republic, our constituents, members of the Iranian-American community, have expressed serious concern over the far-reaching consequences posed by this treaty. 

According to the proposed bill, Belgium would be enabled to carry out prisoner exchanges with several countries, including Iran. Ostensibly, this would allow for Belgium to release Assadollah Assadi, a former Iranian diplomat who was sentenced to twenty years for the attempted 2018 Paris bomb plot. While Belgium claims that this treaty is harmless in nature, it seems probable that backchannel negotiations occurred between Iran and Belgium for the development of this bill with the explicit purpose of releasing Assadi. Belgian deputy George Dallemagne rightfully stated that the treaty is “tailored to Assadi.” Allowing Assadi’s release back to Iran conveys to the regime that it is free to carry out its reckless behavior. Subsequently, such a policy will lead the regime to take more provocative actions against the United States. 

The regime continues to take hostages and hold Western citizens as political pawns. While we understand Western governments’ concern for the hostages held by the regime, this can not justify the passage of a bill that indeed encourages further hostage taking and also threatens the safety of Iranian dissidents abroad. Opening the door to prisoner exchange would reward the ransom-seeking activities of the Iranian regime and provide a legal framework to expedite the process. 

Understanding the risk posed by this treaty, hundreds of pro-democracy activists warned the Belgian government that this treaty will essentially establish Belgium as a sanctuary country for terrorism. NUFDI maintains that this proposed treaty, if enacted, will empower the behavior of the regime against dissidents not only in Belgium, but across the world and here in America. The human rights implications of this potential law have already been cited by leading international groups including Amnesty International.

We therefore call on the State Department to urge the Belgian government not to ratify this law which would threaten the West’s collective security, harm Iranian dissidents, and embolden the theocratic regime in Tehran.

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