The Belgian a year ago and pictured earlier this month

Fears for hunger-striking Belgian in Iranian jail cell

There are mounting concerns about the health of Belgian Olivier Vandecasteele, who has been held in Iran since February.  The United Nations says the conditions in which the NGO worker are being held amount to torture.

Vandecasteele is 41 and has been working in Iran for an international humanitarian organisation for six years.  It’s unclear why he is being held.

His family say that his first contact with representatives of the Belgian consulate in Iran since his arrest dates from yesterday. 

Vandecasteele’s family say he was held in an underground isolation cell without a window for 278 days.  Food consists of bread, rice, lentils and tap water.  They add he was questioned by an Iranian tribunal without his lawyer being present.  When the lawyer assigned by the Iranian authorities was present, he didn’t say a word.

The Belgian is now on hunger strike in protest against the conditions of his captivity.

Nine months after his arrest it’s unclear why the Belgian is being held.  Some sources suggest the Iranians hope to exchange him for Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat and terrorist serving twenty years in Belgium after being convicted of planning an attack on a rally of the Iranian opposition in Paris.

Iran is also still holding Ahmadreza Djalali, a lecturer at the Flemish Free University of Brussels, who the Iranians have sentenced to death for terrorist activities.

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