Assadi has been released in exchange for Vandecasteele, but who is this ‘innocent diplomat’ according to Iran?

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the Iranian foreign minister, confirmed on Twitter that Assadollah Assadi has been released. In exchange, Olivier Vandecasteele returned home on Friday. But who is Assadi who had to be traded from Iran at all costs?

Laurence Torck

Assadollah Assadi was sentenced two years ago in Antwerp to twenty years in prison for his role in a thwarted terrorist attack in Paris. He was arrested in Germany in June 2018 after meeting a Belgian couple of Iranian origin in a Pizza Hut in Luxembourg a few days earlier. Assadi was subsequently arrested. The couple, who were under surveillance by local intelligence services, were later arrested in Brussels with half a kilogram of explosives and a detonator. The couple admitted to receiving the package from Assadi but said they did not know what it contained.

The target of the attack was a gathering of tens of thousands of Iranian opposition supporters near Paris. Some well-known names were also present, such as the mayor of New York and then advisor to Donald Trump Rudi Guiliani and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

READ ALSO. Prime Minister De Croo shares first photo of emaciated Olivier Vandecasteele after release, terrorist Assadi extradited as currency

“Illegal process”

An attack, that was very far from Assadi’s job description as a diplomat at the Iranian embassy in Vienna. A job that offered the man protection for activities against Iranian opponents in Europe. It was the first time since the 1979 revolution that an Iranian official in the EU had faced such accusations. However, Tehran continued to insist that Assadi was innocent.

In a statement, an Iranian foreign ministry official strongly objected to Assadi’s arrest, trial and sentencing. He condemned the trial as “illegal and in clear violation of international law, in particular of the 1961 Vienna Convention”.


Iran had asked for his release in exchange for Belgian Olivier Vandecasteele, who was in a cell in Tehran. “Mr Assadollah Assadi, the innocent diplomat of our country, illegally detained in Germany and Belgium for more than two years in violation of international law, is now on his way back to his homeland and will soon enter our beloved Iran,” writes the Iranian minister. “I thank the Sultanate of Oman for its positive efforts in this direction.”

READ ALSO. Olivier Vandecasteele on his way home after 15 months in Iranian prison

Oman also posted an official response on Twitter: “Oman’s efforts have led to an agreement between both parties for an exchange. Those released were taken from Tehran and Brussels to Muscat today in preparation for their return to their home countries. The Sultanate of Oman appreciates the positive atmosphere that prevailed in the talks between the Iranian and Belgian sides in Muscat and the will of both sides to solve this humanitarian problem.”

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