Belgium calls on its citizens to leave Iran because of the "risk of arbitrary detention"

Belgium calls on its citizens to leave Iran because of the "risk of arbitrary detention"

 Belgium on Sunday called on its citizens "who visit Iran" to leave the country "as soon as possible" due to "growing risks of arbitrary detention" following the sentencing of Belgian humanitarian worker Olivier Vandecastel.

"Any Belgian visitor, even a dual national, exposes himself to great risk (which includes) arbitrary arrest, detention and unfair judgment. This risk also includes individuals who are only on a tourist visit to Iran," the foreign ministry said in a statement. .

The Belgian consular services registered the presence of 200 Belgian citizens in Iran this summer.

And the Foreign Ministry added, "In the event of arrest or detention, respect for basic rights and the safety of people is not guaranteed. In this context, the ability of the Belgian embassy in Tehran to guarantee consular protection for arrested or detained citizens is verylimited.”

"The Belgian nationals who are currently in Iran despite this warning are called upon to exercise the utmost vigilance and take necessary precautions to ensure their security. Recently, a Belgian citizen and several other Westerners were arbitrarily arrested and are now imprisoned in Iran," she added.

Belgian humanitarian worker Olivier Vandecastel, who has been in solitary confinement since his arrest on February 24, was sentenced to 28 years in prison. His family stated that he was arrested without reason, and no indication was issued by the Iranian authorities as to what charges were leveled against him.

The situation has been tense between Belgium and Iran since the arrest of the Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, who was sentenced in Belgium in 2021 to twenty years in prison on charges of planning a "terrorist" attack against the Iranian opposition.

On Thursday, the Belgian Constitutional Court suspended a prisoner exchange treaty between Belgium and Iran that was approved by Parliament in July to facilitate the return of the humanitarian worker, following several appeals by Iranian dissidents in exile.

Vandecastel´s sister denounced the "unspeakable psychological torture" her brother had been subjected to, stressing that he was an "innocent hostage in the middle of a legal and political battle" between Iran and Belgium.