Belgian ambassador to Iran sees the health of detained Belgian aid worker deteriorating
The Belgian ambassador to Iran could meet the Belgian imprisoned aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele for the seventh time on Wednesday, 4 January. His family confirmed this on Monday. After ten months in complete isolation, Vandecasteele is severely emaciated. His health is said to have only deteriorated.
The short meeting took place under the strict supervision of four guards and an interpreter. Because the Iranian government does not allow any mention of the "sham trial" in which Vandecasteele was sentenced, he is still unaware of the official reason for his arrest.
Last week, an Iranian colleague confirmed to Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib (MR) that a Belgian detained in Iran is accused of espionage. As Vandecasteele is the only compatriot detained there, it could only be him.
Vandecasteele has been held in an isolation cell in Iran since 24 February. In November, he was forced to participate in a possibly staged trial and was sentenced to 28 years in prison. He explained to the Belgian ambassador that he was forced to participate in the trial for hours, with shackles on his arms and legs.
Ten months in solitary confinement and inhuman treatment took their toll on his body. It was previously revealed that Vandecasteele had an infection on his foot, was denied winter clothes in sub-zero temperatures and had severe dental problems. The only dental treatment he has received has solved some of the issues. Meanwhile, his ears also suffered.
Protesters wear clothes reading 'Free Olivier' and holding placards reading 'The priority is the right of living for Olivier' (L) and 'Olivier is in danger, let's mobilise' (R) during a solidarity demonstration with Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele in Brussels on December 25, 2022. Brussels officials said on December 21, 2022, that Iran had imposed 28-year jail term on Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele, stirring an already bitter debate over a stalled prisoner exchange treaty. Vandecasteele was arrested in February, 2022, and is reportedly being held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, in conditions that Belgian justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne has described as "inhumane".
© François WALSCHAERTS / AFP