European Parliament condemns Iran's conviction of Belgian aid worker
On Thursday, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning Iran's conviction of Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele and calling for his "immediate and unconditional release and repatriation." MEPs addressed Vandecasteele's conviction amid a broader call for a tougher EU crackdown on Iran.
The resolution "strongly condemns" Vandecasteele's conviction, the continued detention of Swedish-Iranian scientist Ahmadreza Djalali, and "the cynical use of hostage diplomacy to force the release of convicted terrorist Asadollah Asadi", the text reads. Assadi, officially an Iranian diplomat, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium in 2021 for a foiled terror attack in Paris.
The MPs demand the "immediate and unconditional release and safe repatriation" of Djalali and Vandecasteele and seven French citizens imprisoned in Iran. Vandecasteele has been held in dire conditions in Tehran since February 2022. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes for espionage, cooperation with the United States against Iran and money laundering. Djalali has been in prison since 2016 and was sentenced to death for espionage.
The resolution more broadly calls for a tougher EU crackdown on Iran by extending sanctions and putting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the European list of terrorist organizations. MEPs also call on the EU and its member states to do everything in their power to protect the Iranian diaspora and to support those "illegally convicted and arrested" in Iran.
The MEPs expressed concern about the situation in Iran, which has been deteriorating for several months now. They point to the recent executions of four people who participated in the protests against the regime, violent repression supported by the highest level of power, a generalization of torture in prisons, the arrests of dozens of journalists, and Iran providing Russia with drones used against civilians in Ukraine.
"The Iranian regime's blatant disregard for the human dignity and democratic aspirations of its own citizens as well as its support to the Russian Federation necessitate further adjustments in the EU's position towards Iran," the text reads.
All options on the table
"The European Parliament wants new sanctions as long as the Iranian regime continues to repress and prosecute its population in the wake of the demonstrations," Belgian MEP Tom Vandenkendelaere (EPP) notes.
"The blackmail of the Iranian authorities, who do not hesitate to imprison and violate the fundamental rights of foreign nationals to achieve their ends, is unacceptable. The European authorities must support the steps of the national authorities in their efforts to have their nationals released", Belgian MEP Saskia Bricmont (Greens/EFA) added.
"I assure you that all the options for the EU's response to events in Iran remain on the table," European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders told MEPs, standing in for EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. He recalled that "over the past three months, the Council has added sixty individuals and eight entities to the list of those concerned by restrictive measures, for their role in the death of Mahsa Amini and the violent response to the demonstrations that followed. This approach will continue, as long as necessary."
Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele © BELGA HANDOUT VANDECASTEELE FAMILY