Iran says in talks with Belgium for release of diplomat convicted of terrorism

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Tehran is in close contact with Brussels over the case of Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat currently serving a 20-year prison sentence in Belgium on terrorism charges, Iran’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

“Dialogue and political consultations with the Belgian authorities [over Assadi’s case] are ongoing,” Iranian state media quoted foreign ministry spokesman Naser Kanani as saying.

“There is close communication and consultation in the judicial field with the Belgian government,” he said, adding: “With the actions that have taken place and the efforts that we have made so far, we hope that we will soon witness the release of this valuable Iranian diplomat.”

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Last week, Belgian lawmakers gave initial clearance to a controversial prisoner exchange treaty with Iran that could lead to Assadi’s release.

The prisoner swap treaty would allow Belgium and Iran to exchange jailed nationals.

The treaty has drawn sharp criticism from former and current US and European officials, as well as Iranian dissidents and rights activists.

Assadi was found guilty of attempted terrorism in February 2021 over a thwarted bomb attack in 2018 in France against a rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a French-based Iranian opposition group.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium and is currently serving his sentence there.

A note from Belgium’s intelligence and security agency identified Assadi as an officer of Iran’s intelligence ministry who operated under cover at Iran’s embassy in Vienna, the Associated Press reported last year.

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