Oman says prisoner swap between Belgium and Iran is underway

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Oman said on Friday that a prisoner swap between Belgium and Iran was underway.

Oman’s state television announcement did not identify the exchanged prisoners. However, Iran has asked Belgium to return a diplomat convicted of planning a bomb attack in France, while Belgium has asked for the release of an aid worker detained by Iran.

“The released persons were transferred from Tehran and Brussels to Muscat today, Friday, with a view to their return to their country,” the Omani report said. “The Sultanate of Oman appreciated the high positive spirit that prevailed during the talks in Muscat between the Iranian and Belgian sides, and their keenness to settle this humanitarian issue.”

Iranian state media did not immediately acknowledge Oman’s comments. The Belgian Foreign Ministry referred the questions to the office of the Belgian Prime Minister, who could not immediately be reached.

In January, Iran sentenced a Belgian aid worker named Olivier Vandecasteele to a long prison term and 74 lashes after convicting him of espionage in a closed trial. He was also fined $1 million.

In 2021, Belgium convicted an Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, of orchestrating a foiled bomb attack against an exiled Iranian opposition group in France and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

Iran has detained a number of foreigners and dual nationals over the years, charging them with espionage or other state security offenses and convicting them after secret trials in which rights groups say they have been denied due process.

Critics have long accused Iran of using these prisoners as bargaining chips with the West.

Iran, facing Western sanctions for its rapidly advancing nuclear program, has faced protests in recent months and economic strains.


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