Oman says a prisoner swap between Belgium and Iran is underway

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Oman said on Friday that an exchange of prisoners between Belgium and Iran is underway.

The prisoner exchange, announced by Oman state television, was not identified. However, Iran wants Belgium to return a diplomat convicted of planning the bombing in France, while Belgium is demanding the release of an aid worker held by Iran.

“The released people were transferred from Tehran and Brussels to Muscat today, Friday, to prepare for their return to their countries,” the Omani report said. “The Sultanate of Oman appreciates the strong positive spirit in the talks in Muscat between the Iranian and Belgian sides and their eagerness to resolve this humanitarian issue.”

Iranian state media did not immediately acknowledge Oman’s comments. Belgium’s foreign ministry referred questions to the Belgian prime minister’s office, which could not be immediately reached.

In January, Iran sentenced a Belgian aid worker named Olivier Vandecastelle to a long prison term and 74 lashes after being convicted of espionage in a closed-door trial. He was also fined one million dollars.

In 2021, Belgium convicted and sentenced an Iranian diplomat, Assadullah Asadi, to 20 years in prison for masterminding a failed bomb attack against an exiled Iranian opposition group in France.

Iran has detained many foreigners and dual citizens over the years, accusing them of espionage or other state security crimes and sentencing them after secret trials that rights groups say denied them due process Has gone.

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

Iran, facing Western sanctions over its fast-growing nuclear program, has faced protests and economic tensions in recent months.

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