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Release of Olivier Vandencasteele: “Iranian blackmail has paid off”
“It is a very good thing that Olivier Vandecasteele will be released and an end will come to the hell he and his family found themselves in. However, our society is paying a high price for it. That must not happen to us a second time,” says N-VA group leader in the Chamber Peter De Roover with mixed feelings in response to the exchange of Olivier Vandecasteele for convicted terrorist Assadollah Assadi. “We must not forget that Mr Vandecasteele fell victim to the Iran deal, thus to Belgian foreign policy. This case reads like a handbook entitled ‘How to get terrorists released from Belgian prison’.”
De Roover denounces the government’s attitude. “There is no cause for euphoria when the policy puts a Belgian in serious trouble, someone who can only be freed by releasing a convicted terrorist. Tehran’s blackmail policy has been a complete success. From the moment Tehran knew we were willing to compromise, every Belgian in the country was in danger.”
Assadi’s victims not notified
With this prisoner exchange - the Iran deal is not about exchange, by the way - the government completely ignored the terms of the treaty with Iran and the ruling of the Constitutional Court. Assadi’s victims were not informed in advance of this exchange and could therefore not exercise their rights. Parliament was not involved either, despite an explicit demand from the Groen party to approve the treaty in the Chamber.
Parliament not involved
“The involvement of Parliament in the implementation of this treaty, behind closed doors if necessary, was an explicit demand by the Groen party, supported by several parties in the Chamber, to approve this extradition treaty. The minister also made promises to this effect to the Foreign Relations Committee. That did not happen,” notes De Roover, who asked questions about this in the Committee this week, but received no answers.
Every Belgian fair game in Iran
“Now that Vandecasteele is free, the government should suspend the treaty with Iran so that such a tragic episode can be avoided in the future. The government must no longer allow a new Vandecasteele case to occur. This exchange treaty actually declares any Belgian in the Iranian sphere of influence fair game,” concludes De Roover, expressing fears that this case could be seen as a handbook entitled “How to get terrorists released from Belgian prisons”.