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August 1 2022

Op-Eds

Belgium’s Prisoner Swap Deal Will Only Encourage Iranian Terrorism

Cameron Khansarinia

VICE PRESIDENT

Originally published by POLITICO Europe.

On July 14, Sweden’s judiciary struck a blow for international justice, when it sentenced Hamid Nouri—an Iranian prison official involved in the mass killing of political prisoners—to life imprisonment. The verdict put the world’s human rights abusers on notice: Europe would not be their safe haven.

Alas, what Stockholm giveth, Brussels taketh away.

Only a few days after Nouri’s sentence was announced, Belgium’s parliament ratified a prisoner swap treaty with Iran. Belgium entered the treaty to free one of its own, an aid worker named Olivier Vandecasteele, who languishes in an Iranian prison on dubious espionage charges. And as a result of the agreement, it will likely release Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian
diplomat convicted of attempting to blow up an opposition gathering in Paris — though there are indications that Belgian courts may prove an obstacle to this plan.

However, let us not mince words: Vandecasteele is a hostage, held by Iran for ransom. But in exchanging a convicted terrorist for him, Belgium is paving the way for even more terrorism and for more Europeans to be taken hostage. We know because we’ve seen this happen before…