NGO worker Olivier Vandecasteele freed from imprisonment in Iran

The Belgian humanitarian aid worker was initially sentenced to a total of 40 years in prison in Teheran for alleged “espionage.”

Olivier Vandecasteele, the Belgian humanitarian aid worker who has been imprisoned in Teheran since February 2022 under criminal charges widely contested, has been released from jail and is currently heading back to his home country.

The long-awaited news was announced by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in a press release released on Friday morning.

“Olivier Vandecasteele is on his way to Belgium. If everything goes as planned, he will be with us tonight. Finally free”, De Croo wrote.

“Oliver spent 455 days in a Teheran prison. In unbearable conditions. Innocent.”

His return is “a relief for his family, for his friends, for his colleague,” De Croo added.

Vandecasteele left Teheran on Thursday night and was flown to Oman to undergo a medical examination, the prime minister said. The worker was accompanied by Belgian diplomats and military officers.

“For me, the choice has always been clear: the life of Oliver has always been first,” he added.

The NGO worker was detained in February 2022 and was later sentenced to a total of 40 years in prison in Tehran for alleged “espionage” and a physical punishment consisting of 74 lashes.

The accusations were forcefully disputed by the Belgian government, which had tried several legal and diplomatic avenues to secure the release of the 42-year-old.

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