Belgium calls on citizens to leave Iran as soon as possible: 'Risk of arbitrary arrest'
The Belgian Foreign Ministry has called on Belgian nationals to leave Iran "as soon as possible because of the increased risk of arbitrary arrest," a press release issued by the Ministry on Sunday reads.
"All Belgian visitors, including citizens with dual citizenship, face a serious risk of arrest, arbitrary detention and unfair trial. This risk also applies to people simply visiting Iran as tourists. In the event of arrest or detention, respect for fundamental rights and the safety of those concerned are not guaranteed," the press release reads.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry already advised its citizens to leave Iran in the latest update of its travel advisory on 10 October. Belgians who are still in Iran are now being urged to be extremely vigilant and take the necessary precautions. They are strongly advised to limit travel in the country, avoid any form of gathering and report to the embassy through registration on Travellers Online.
The Belgian Ministry points out that its embassy in Tehran has very limited capacity to provide detained nationals consular protection. Consular visits are not allowed for Belgian nationals with dual citizenship, there is no guarantee of consular attendance at hearings during any trial, and detainees do not have access to a lawyer of their choice.
The urgent call follows the recent conviction of Olivier Vandecasteele, a Belgian aid worker detained in Iran since 24 February. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison. It is still unclear what the nature of the charges are and which court handed down his sentence.
Belgian NGO-worker Olivier Vandecasteele, detained in Iran since 24 February © BELGA HANDOUT / Vandecasteele family