Archive picture shows humanitarian worker Olivier Vandecasteele in better times.
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Constitutional Court suspends Belgian-Iranian treaty to swap prisoners, "complete disaster" for Belgian aid worker

Belgium's Constitutional Court has suspended a treaty between Belgium and Iran designed to exchange prisoners. The treaty could have prompted the release of the Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele, who is being kept prisoner by the Iranian regime. "This is a complete disaster for him", a friend of his told the VRT. 

There were talks of swapping the Iranian terrorist Assadollah Assadi for Belgium's Olivier Vandecasteele. Assadi was handed 20 years behind bars last year for a foiled bomb attack in Paris. 

The Constitutional Court argues that Belgium should know that Iran will possibly (or likely) release Assadi, which would mean that he escapes his punishment. But European legislation says that Belgium has to make sure that his punishment is being carried out. If Assadi would be released, this would also damage the interests of 10 people that had filed as potential victims in the trial. 

The latest decision is bad news for Vandecasteele, says his friend Olivier Van Steirtegem. "Olivier is being given 10, 15 or 20 years in an Iranian prison cell now. It has a major impact on his family, which has put a lot of effort in preparing documents to make a deal possible. This was their only chance to bring Olivier back. Now it turns out to be a complete disaster." 

The court will decide within three months whether the treaty will be scrapped altogether. PM Alexander De Croo said not to jump to conclusions. He said the court's ruling will be discussed in Parliament first. 

Olivier Vandecasteele (41) had been working for a humanitarian organisation in Iran for 6 years when he was arrested earlier this year (for unknown reasons). Since then, he is being kept as a prisoner in an Iranian cell. His situation is worsening fast. Local U.N. workers say that his situation in the Iranian prison is equal with torture. 

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