Iran’s judiciary has sentenced a Belgian national to 40 years in prison apart from 74 lashes on four charges, including espionage and some financial crimes.
Olivier Vandecasteele, arrested in February last year by Iran’s security agencies, was handed preliminary sentences on Tuesday on four charges, the judiciary-affiliated Mizan News said.
For the two main charges of “spying for foreign intelligence agencies” and “collaborating with the hostile US government against the Islamic Republic”, the 41-year-old former aid worker received 12.5 jail sentences each.
Other charges include “professional smuggling of foreign currency” amounting to $500,000, for which he was given 2.5 years in jail and 74 lashes.
He was also charged with money laundering of the same amount, which includes another 12.5 years in prison.
The sentences are preliminary and can be challenged in the court of appeals within 20 working days, the judiciary said.
Vandecasteele’s family last month said they had been informed during a meeting with Belgium’s prime minister that he will get a 28-year jail term.
Last week, Iran’s state media said Vandecasteele had come to the country “under the guise of humanitarian works” to spy for foreign intelligence agencies and to disturb the country’s internal security.
The Belgian national, who previously worked for the Norwegian Refugee Council, has rejected the charges and authorities in Belgium have also termed his imprisonment illegal.
Belgium’s justice minister last month said Vandecasteele had been arrested in Iran on “a series of fabricated charges”.
Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, reacting to the sentences on Twitter on Tuesday, said Iran’s ambassador to Brussels would be summoned as a mark of protest.
Last week, judiciary spokesman Masoud Setayeshi said an indictment was issued against the Belgian national on November 9 on charges of espionage.
He also informed about indictments against two French nationals arrested on charges of “espionage, gathering, and collusion” against the country’s internal security, without revealing their identity.
Iran has been rocked by sweeping protests in recent months sparked by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, while in police custody in mid-September.
Earlier on Tuesday, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said it arrested at least 13 members belonging to six “espionage and terrorist” groups allegedly linked to Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.
It said the groups were identified in the provinces of Tehran, Isfahan, Yazd, West Azarbaijan, and Golestan, with their leader based in a European country.
Source » aa