Assadi’s Extradition Eases Threat To Belgium

Sarhan Basem

The transfer of convicted terrorist Assadollah Assadi to Iran in exchange for Olivier Vandecasteele has reduced the threat against our country and our compatriots. Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) stated this in the Chamber on Thursday, based on information from the security and intelligence services. Their fate was “one-to-one linked”, the minister stressed.

After 455 days of innocent captivity in an Iranian cell, Vandecasteele returned to our country just under a week ago. In exchange for his release, Assadi was handed over to Iran. Assadi was sentenced to 20 years in prison in our country for his role in plotting a foiled terror attack in 2018 near Paris.

Question fire in the Chamber

During interpellations in the Chamber, Peter De Roover (N-VA), Ellen Samyn (Vlaams Belang) and Sophie Rohonyi (DéFI) fired a lot of questions about the deal with Iran towards Minister Van Quickenborne and his Foreign Affairs colleague Hadja Lahbib (MR). ). They especially wanted to know what the future holds and how another case like that of Olivier Vandecasteele can be prevented.

Not much new information emerged from the answers of the ministers. Van Quickenborne repeated that since the arrest of the suspects for the attack at the end of June 2018, our country has been the target of threats from Iran. “It is that threat and the subsequent conviction that determined the fate of Olivier Vandecasteele and not the treaty” that our country concluded with Iran on the transfer of each other’s convicts. As is known, that treaty was ultimately not used to free Vandecasteele, but was reverted to an article from the Constitution. That line was confirmed by “several constitutionalists,” it said.

‘Another 25 Europeans in Iranian cell’
It was after the first suspension judgment of the Constitutional Court of the transfer treaty that an alternative way was sought. “Because in 99.9999 percent of cases a suspension is followed by an annulment. We couldn’t let our shoulders hang, could we?” said the Minister of Justice. “It doesn’t stop here”, Van Quickenborne continued. “There are still 25 Europeans innocently detained in an Iranian cell. That’s 25 Olivier Vandecasteeles. We remain committed, together with our European allies, to get them released.”

“You had to admit that the track of the treaty was a mistake and you lost an awful lot of time, while the solution was apparently within reach,” De Roover responded. “Iran has attacked us in our principles and you have had to endure it helplessly.” Samyn denounced that the government has paved the way for new abuses of power and detaining foreigners to use as currency.

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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.