Justice minister denies prisoner swap deal and accuses Iran of disinformation
In a reaction to an announcement by the Iranian court, Belgian Justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne denied a prisoner swap deal had been reached with Iran. "This message is wrong," he said. "It comes from a rogue state that specialises in manipulation."
Van Quickenborne believes the announcement is a way for the Iranian government to put pressure on Belgium and the family of NGO worker Olivier Vandecasteele, who is imprisoned in Iran. "I can only say that we will continue to do everything we can to get Olivier Vandecasteele back with us," he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Reuters and Bloomberg reported that a spokesperson for the Iranian court had announced a prisoner exchange between the two countries. According to the spokesperson, Iranian diplomat Asadollah Assadi, sentenced to 20 years in Belgian jail for plotting a terrorist attack, would be swapped for a Belgian prisoner "soon".
It was implied that the deal involved Vandecasteele, who was jailed by Iran more than a year ago following what has been described as a sham trial. Last week, the Belgian government officially requested that Iran allow Vandecasteele to return to Belgium.
Belgian Justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK