Iran sentences Belgian aid workers to jail, flogging

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Iran has sentenced a Belgian aid worker to a lengthy prison term and 74 lashes after being found guilty of espionage in a closed trial, state media reported Tuesday. rice field.

The Revolutionary Court has sentenced 41-year-old Olivier Vandecastil to 12.5 years in prison for espionage, 12.5 years for collaborating with a hostile government and 12.5 years for money laundering, according to the Iranian judiciary website. handed over. He was also fined $1 million and sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for smuggling currency.

Under Iranian law, Vandecasteel is eligible for release after 12.5 years. A judicial website said the verdict could be appealed.

Iran has detained many foreigners and dual citizens over the years, accused them of espionage and other national security crimes, and accused rights groups of denying due process. He’s handing down the verdict after an alleged secret trial.

Critics have accused Iran of using such prisoners as bargaining chips with the West, but Iranian officials deny this. It comes after an Iranian diplomat was sentenced to 20 years in prison for masterminding a bomb attack against an exiled Iranian rebel group in France.

Iran has not released details about the charges against Vandecasteel. Whether they are related to the dissident protests that have unsettled Iran for months, or the long-running shadow between Israel and the United States marked by covert attacks on Iran’s disputed nuclear program. It is unclear whether it was related to the war.

Nationwide protests began after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained on suspicion of violating Iran’s strict Islamic dress code, died in police custody. Protesters, rallying under the slogan “Women, Life and Freedom”, say they are fed up with decades of social and political oppression. Iran blamed foreign forces for the protests without providing any evidence.

Vandecasteele’s family said last month that he had been detained in an Iranian prison for months and was on hunger strike. I said I was in pain.

Belgium has warned that it faces the risk of arbitrary arrest and unfair trials and has urged its citizens to leave Iran.

“Iran has not provided any official information regarding the charges against Olivier Vandecastil or his trial,” Belgian Foreign Minister Haja Raabib said in a statement. “In view of the information circulating in the media, I summon the Iranian ambassador today.”

“Belgium continues to condemn this arbitrary detention and is doing everything possible to end it and improve his detention conditions,” she said.

Anti-government demonstrations, which have continued for nearly four months and show no signs of abating, have become one of the biggest challenges for the Islamic Republic since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

At least 520 protesters were killed and more than 19,300 were arrested, according to Iranian human rights activists, a group monitoring the riots.Iranian authorities have not provided official figures on deaths or arrests.

Iran has executed at least four people after convicting them of charges related to the protests, including attacks on security forces. Revolutionary courts do not allow those on trial to choose their own lawyers or see evidence against them.

London-based Amnesty International says such trials “do not resemble meaningful judicial proceedings”.

Norway and Denmark summoned Iranian ambassadors this week to protest Iran’s handling of the executions and demonstrations.

“What is happening in Iran is completely unacceptable and must stop,” said Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt. “We strongly condemned the execution.”

In Denmark, Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen called the executions “totally unacceptable” and said the European Union should impose additional sanctions on Iran.

Separately on Tuesday, the state-run IRNA news agency said Iran’s intelligence ministry had arrested six teams of operatives linked to Mossad, Israel’s top intelligence and secret service agency.

Without providing any evidence, the report said the spy team planned to assassinate an unnamed high-ranking official and staged several sabotage operations in the country’s largest cities.

The report also said security forces identified 23 suspects in these teams and arrested 13 who were in the country.

Associated Press