Iran sentences Belgian aid worker to 40 years in prison, lashes on spying charges

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Iran has sentenced Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele to 40 years in prison as well 74 lashes on several charges, including espionage and currency smuggling, state media reported on Tuesday.

Vandecasteele was convicted of “spying against Iran on behalf of a foreign intelligence service, cooperating with the US against Iran, currency smuggling in the amount of $500,000 and money laundering in the same amount,” reported the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

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He has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for the first two charges, an additional 2.5 years, a $1 million fine, and 74 lashes for the third charge, and an additional 12.5 years for the fourth charge.

According to Iranian law, Vandecasteele would be eligible for release after serving 12.5 years.

Vandecasteele has the right to appeal the verdict within 20 days, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported. He was arrested in Iran last February.

A spokesman for Vandecasteele’s family said last month that he has been sentenced to 28 years in prison by Iran.

Belgium and Vandecasteele’s family maintain his innocence, contending that he is being held as a hostage by Iran in an effort to force Belgium to release Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium in 2021.

Assadi was found guilty of providing explosives for a failed 2018 bomb plot targeting a meeting of an Iranian opposition group outside Paris.

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