Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian confirmed the news of Assadi’s return in a tweet on Friday after Oman’s Foreign Ministry officially announced that Muscat had mediated a deal between Iran and Belgium to swap their prisoners, Press TV reported.
“Assadollah Assadi, the innocent diplomat of our country, who was illegally detained in Germany and Belgium for more than two years in violation of international law, is now on his way back to his homeland and will soon enter our beloved Iran,” Amir-Abdollahian said Friday afternoon.
“I thank the Sultanate of Oman for its positive efforts in this direction,” the foreign minister added.
According to legal experts, Assadi’s case was based on sham and unsubstantiated charges and smacks of political propaganda against the Islamic Republic.
Belgian authorities in June 2018 said the country’s police had intercepted a car carrying homemade explosives, claiming that the Iranian diplomat handed the material to two people in Belgium.
He was accused of plotting an attack against the anti-Iran Mujahedin Khalq (MKO) terrorist outfit, a claim that has been strongly rejected by Iranian authorities.
A Belgian court then sentenced the diplomat, who had served as the third counselor at Iran’s Embassy in Vienna, to 20 years in prison.
Assadi taken hostage on ‘Israeli plot’
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanaani also announced in a statement that Assadi will return to the country after “five years in captivity”.
Kanaani noted that Assadi had been “taken hostage” during a plot designed by the Israeli regime and carried out with the cooperation of some European intelligence services.
“The Zionist-American ‘big lie’ scenario went on stage with the aim of creating a crisis in relations between Iran and Europe, and this plot happened right after the U.S. withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran,” he said.
Kanaani also said that some European governments, influenced by Israel and Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) terrorist group, violated international law by arresting and sentencing Assadi to 20 years in prison after a “political and sham trial”.
Iran had always protested and condemned the violation of Assadi’s diplomatic immunity and tried hard to free him, Kanaani said, adding that an agreement was reached to release Assadi following negotiations between foreign ministers of Iran and Belgium.
The news came shortly after Oman’s Foreign Ministry officially announced that the country had “successfully” managed to broker a deal between Iran and Belgium to exchange their prisoners.
“The Sultanate of Oman appreciates the positive high-level spirit that prevailed during the discussions in Muscat between the Iranian and Belgian sides, and their commitment to resolving this humanitarian issue,” the statement said.
Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander de Croo confirmed that Olivier Vandecasteele had arrived in Oman. The 42-year-old had been convicted by the Iranian Judiciary of four charges including spying activities, collusion with the United States, currency smuggling, and money laundering.
The Judiciary sentenced the Belgian citizen, working under the guise of an aid worker, to a total of 40 years in prison earlier in the year.