Vandecasteele reacts for first time since release from Iran: 'I'm doing well'
Olivier Vandecasteele, who returned to Belgium last week after being imprisoned for 455 days in Iran, has publicly commented on his release for the first time in a press release on Thursday. "I have been back in Belgium for five days now, and I am doing well," he said.
The contrast with his time in Iran is stark, Vandecasteele said. "After 15 months of unjust imprisonment, I am gradually coming back into contact with another reality, namely that of a nice week in our beloved democratic Belgium. I am being closely monitored by a medical team assisting me professionally. I thank them warmly for this."
"I am deeply moved by the extent of your support. I am amazed by all your actions and attentions, small and big"
Having spent 13 months in solitary confinement, the NGO worker had no idea of the scale of mobilisation in Belgium and abroad, he said. "I am deeply moved by the extent of your support. I am amazed by all your actions and attentions, small and big. I am now discovering all the forums, petitions, columns, banners, drawings, cards and letters from friends, colleagues, students, academics, artists, athletes... In short, from all Belgians and Europeans who took action to give me back my beloved freedom. This support was also essential to guide my family and friends through this storm."
'Continue the fight'
Vandecasteele, 42, thanked everyone for the "kindness" and "love" with which his family and himself have been surrounded since his return. He concluded his statement with a heartfelt plea to fellow prisoners. "Let us continue the fight for the release of other innocent hostages around the world and actively support projects that promote the values of humanity, solidarity and hope. This world, which is sometimes terribly cynical, desperately needs this."
Vandecasteele was flown from Tehran to Oman last Thursday and handed over to a Belgian delegation. He landed at Melsbroek airport on Friday evening. He was exchanged with convicted Iranian terrorist Assadollah Assadi.
© BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK and BELGA VIDEO HANDOUT EVA NEWS (30/5) JEAN-CHARLES DIERICKX