‘Pact With The Devil’: Critics Slam Belgium-Iran Deal That Could See Terrorist Diplomat Sent Home

(CNSNews.com) – Critics of the Iranian regime are dismayed that Belgium’s parliament has approved a controversial treaty with Iran that will likely allow for the repatriation of an Iranian diplomat serving a lengthy prison sentence for terrorism.

The government in Brussels has depicted the move as a humanitarian one that will allow criminals convicted for crimes in Belgium or Iran to serve their sentences in their home countries.

But Tehran is not even pretending that Assadollah Assadi, its diplomat sentenced last year to 20 years’ imprisonment for his role in a plot to bomb a gathering of Iranian dissidents, will serve jail time at home once returned.

On the contrary, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani on Wednesday reiterated the regime’s view that Assadi was innocent, should be cleared of all charges, and compensated by the Belgian authorities. He said those responsible had violated Assadi’s diplomatic immunity.

Kanani also declared that the Iran-Belgium agreement has nothing to do with Assadi – echoing claims that have been made by senior officials in Brussels.


The group targeted in Assadi’s bomb plot, the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has little doubt that the agreement is all about Assadi.

The court found that the diplomat, who was based at Iran’s embassy in Vienna, used his diplomatic privileges to smuggle TATP explosive from Iran to Europe, and then provided it to co-conspirators in the plot to bomb an annual NCRI rally near Paris in mid-2018.

Among the thousands of participants at the event were some prominent American supporters of the NCRI, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

Arrested in Germany, Belgium, and France, four co-accused were put on trial in Belgium – where the would-be bombers were apprehended en route to the rally – convicted and jailed for terms ranging from 17-20 years. The court described them as “part of a larger terrorist group within a specific Iranian intelligence service.”

Belgium and Iran signed the prisoner-exchange agreement last March. Only recently did Belgians learn from Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne that a Belgian aid worker, Olivier Vandecasteele, has been held by Iran since February, accused of spying.

Van Quickenborne said earlier this month it was Belgium’s “moral duty” to help get him home

The regime in Iran has a long record of hostage-taking intended to facilitate prisoner swaps.

During heated debate ahead of Wednesday’s late-night 79-41 vote in favor of the prisoner-swap deal, some lawmakers accused the government of giving in to Iranian “blackmail,” drawing angry denials from ministers.

At the same time, Van Quickenborne told parliament that winning freedom for Vandecasteele was a top government priority. He also noted that there were around 200 other Belgian citizens in Iran, who risked being imprisoned.

After the vote Darya Safai, a lawmaker from the opposition New Flemish Alliance party and an expatriate Iranian, called it “a black day in history.”

She described the prisoner-swap agreement as “a pact with the devil that will ensure the release of a convicted terrorist. The devil is rubbing his hands in light of more terrorist operations.”

The NCRI, whose supporters had demonstrated for days outside the parliament complex, said the deal would provide “the highest incentive for the religious fascism ruling Iran to step up terrorism and to use hostage-taking as much as possible for the release of its arrested terrorists and agents.”

In the U.S., Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called the agreement “shameful.”

“We should be holding the regime in Tehran accountable, not returning their terrorists,” he said.

Criticism also came from former National Security Advisor and ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, a long-time supporter of the NCRI (although not present at the targeted rally in 2018).

“Belgium’s proposed treaty with Iran is simply outrageous,” Bolton tweeted. “Asadollah Assadi is a terrorist imprisoned for attempting to bomb a rally by opponents of the Iranian regime in France. This sets a horrible precedent and the U.S. strongly condemns this action.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Thursday referred queries about the agreement to the government in Brussels.

Price did say, though, that “Iran has a long history of unjust imprisonment of foreign nationals for use as political leverage,” and noted that they included Americans.

“It remains a priority of this administration and will continue to be a priority of this administration to see to it that the Americans are released, and that we will continue to work together with our partners to address Iran’s heinous practice of wrongfully detaining third-country nationals as well.”

After the Assadi trial concluded, more than 250 U.S. lawmakers co-sponsored a bipartisan resolution condemning Iranian state-sponsored terror attacks against U.S. citizens and Iranian dissidents. The measure called for Iranian embassies to be closed to prevent them from being used for malign activities.


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