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Belgium gives initial okay to controversial prisoner swap with Iran

Belgium’s parliament has approved a controversial prisoner-swap treaty with Iran in a first reading of a text that still has to be submitted to a full vote to be ratified.

The treaty has been slammed by an Iranian dissident group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, as well as some US lawmakers and Amnesty International as paving the way for an Iranian diplomat jailed in Belgium on a terrorism conviction to be allowed to return home.

Diplomat Assadollah Assadi, 50, was jailed after he was found guilty of masterminding a thwarted bomb attack on an NCRI event outside Paris in 2018.

Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne on Tuesday told MPs that unless the treaty was adopted, “the threat to our Belgian interests and certain Belgian citizens will increase.”

Anti-regime Iranian dissidents protest outside the Belgian Parliament against a prisoner exchange deal with Tehran that will potentially see the release of convicted Iranian agent and terrorist Assadollah Assadi on July 5, 2022. (Screenshot/Twitter)

He said Iran was already “illegally” holding captive a Belgian aid worker, Olivier Vandecasteele, 41, on trumped-up “espionage” charges.

A full parliamentary vote on the treaty, which was signed in March, is expected to take place tomorrow.

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