On July 6, the Foreign Relations Committee of Belgium’s lower chamber voted for a treaty with the Iranian regime to exchange ‘sentenced prisoners.’ The treaty had already been signed on March 11, but it was kept secret until June 30, then hastily pushed through the parliament for approval.
The treaty faced severe objections, both from inside Belgium and abroad. Almost all of the objectors agreed that the ‘treaty’ had been designed to secure the release of the convicted and imprisoned Iranian terrorist Assadollah Assadi, the former third counselor of Iran’s embassy in Vienna, Austria.
In February 2021, a court in Antwerp sentenced Assadi to 20 years in jail for masterminding a bomb plot against the Iranian opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and their gathering near Paris in June 2018.
Farzin Hashemi, the deputy chair of the NCRI Foreign AffairsCommittee, stated, “If he had succeeded, hundreds would have been killed.”
Iranian dissidents, the potential victims of Assadi’s plot, have repeatedly held protest rallies in Brussels, Stockholm, London, Oslo, Aarhus, and Malmo, as well as many cities in the United States and Canada over the past week. They called the treaty a ‘shameful deal’ and demanded that Belgian authorities keep Assadi in jail.
Iranians around the world reminded Belgian lawmakers of the treatment received by several terrorists who were repatriated to Iran in recent years, stating that “All of them received a hero’s welcome by the regime.”
On July 5, hundreds of NCRI members and supporters chanted outside Prime Minister Alexander De Croo’s office, saying, “Don’t free terrorist Assadi.”
The Iranians were not alone in concerns over the treaty. Many Belgian lawmakers voiced their protest against the ‘Iran deal’ as well.
Opposition lawmaker Michael Freilich stated, “This is an erosion of the legal system. Iran has publicly made it clear that they don’t see Assadi as a terrorist but as a diplomat. He will be freed as soon as he steps foot on Iranian soil.”
Iranian-born lawmaker Darya Safai, who personally experienced life in an Iranian prison, said, “Black day for Belgium. Undermining our security to give in to blackmail from the mullahs. This deal makes Belgium a safe haven for terrorists. The government should be ashamed. Can those who voted for Iran Deal still look in the mirror?”
Black day for Belgium.
Undermining our security to give in to blackmail from the Ayatollahs.
This deal makes Belgium a safe haven for terrorists.
The government should be ashamed.
Can those who voted for #IranDeal still look in the mirror?
— Darya Safai MP (@SafaiDarya) July 6, 2022
Opposition leader Peter De Roover said, “The Iran deal intended to release the convicted terrorist, approved in committee. ‘A turning point to undermine international justice’ as 12 European ministers wrote to the House in one of the numerous pleas.”
Many transatlantic dignitaries joined the campaign titled “Don’t Free Terrorists,” including former International Criminal Court judge Chris van den Wyngaert, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez; U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio; former U.S. Justice Minister Michael Mukasey; former UK House of Commons speakers John Bercow and Baroness Boothroyd; several former European foreign ministers, such as Italian FM Giulio Terzi; and even the 2018 Nobel laureate in Physics and chief scientist of the James Webb Space Telescope program, Prof. John Mather.
The Belgian government, mainly Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, has ignored the warnings about dealing with the world’s state-sponsor of terrorism. On July 5, pointing to dozens of Europeans taken hostage in Iran, he told MPs, “Lives are at stake if the bill is not approved.”
It is apparent that the government is putting the lives of many innocent people—even inside Belgium—at risk because the mullahs have proven that they do not recognize borders. Weakness and concessions only inspire them to take more hostages in order to gain more concessions, including the return of the convicted terrorists to Iran.
Paradoxically, the Iranian Judiciary spokesperson has declared that two French nationals have recently been subjected to legal proceedings in Iran, charged with “acting against Iran’s national security.” The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) claimed it detained Giles Whitaker, the deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Tehran, and several other foreign nationals. The Foreign Office rejected that claim, saying Whitaker had left Iran in December.
Indeed, Europe is on a course to counter state-backed terrorism or succumb to it, feigning ignorance for further unreasonable privileges. Belgium has seemingly chosen the latter, but its counterpart, the Iranian regime, will never be satisfied.