Three Europeans exchanged for Iran's Assadi in prisoner swap

Asadollah Assadi. (Photo/Reuters)

Three more Europeans held by Tehran have been freed and are returning home as part of a wider exchange of prisoners for Iranian diplomat Asadollah Assadi, who was jailed in Belgium for planning an attack in France.

Belgium on Friday said two people with dual Austrian-Iranian nationality and a Danish national had been exchanged for Assadi in the swap that saw Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele released last week.

In a statement, the Belgian government said the Danish person was arrested in Iran in November 2022 in connection with women's rights demonstrations, while the two dual nationals were "wrongfully arrested in ... January 2016 and January 2019".

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo thanked Oman for mediating the swap. After a stop in Oman and medical tests, the three will be flown to Belgium's military airport in Melsbroek.

Dual citizens Kamran Ghaderi and Massud Mossaheb were released after 2,709 and 1,586 days respectively, and were "on their way to Austria, where their families are waiting for them longingly", Austria's Foreign Ministry said in a statement, thanking Belgium and Oman for help in securing their release.


The ministry added that it would continue to work to secure the release of a third Austrian held in Iran whom it did not name and whose appeal against their conviction is ongoing.

Diplomat's release criticised

Critics of the exchange said it would encourage Tehran to take Belgians hostage as bargaining chips to seek the return of agents like Assadi arrested for terror offences in the West.

De Croo stressed that his government "continues to fight for the respect of human rights and the release of European citizens unjustly detained by Iran".

The exact number of foreign passport holders held by Iran is thought to be in the dozens but is not precisely known, as the families of some of the detainees have opted to negotiate out of the public eye.

Falsely imprisoning Western nationals

Ghaderi, an IT manager, was arrested in 2016 upon arrival at Tehran's main airport as he sought to visit relatives. He was later imprisoned on spying charges.

Mossaheb, a mechanical engineer now in his 70s who had worked in the aerospace industry, was arrested in January 2019 while accompanying a delegation from a radiation therapy technology company that provides cancer treatment, according to Amnesty International.

He was also convicted of spying.

The two men's cases mirror those of other Western nationals who have been imprisoned in Iran on spying charges that they, their families and rights groups say are false.

Western countries accuse Iran of falsely imprisoning their nationals to use them as bargaining chips. Iran stands by the convictions.


Source: TRT