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Belgium green-lights treaty that would allow convicted terrorist to be sent back to Iran

The Belgian parliament on Wednesday took a first step toward the ratification of a treaty with Iran, which could allow an Iranian convicted of terrorism in Belgium to be sent back to Tehran.

The treaty has drawn outrage in recent days, as critics fear it will lead to the release of Assadollah Assadi, a terrorist convicted in the Belgian courts and sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in a bomb plot targeting a rally by opponents of the Iranian regime in France.

But Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne on Tuesday defended the treaty to Belgian MPs, arguing there are “human lives at risk.”

Belgian media reported this week that Iran has been holding a Belgian national in jail since February, potentially as leverage.

The treaty could also pave the way for a future political deal on other Europeans detained in Iran, including Ahmadreza Djalali, who was sentenced to death by an Iranian court in 2017 on charges of spying for Israel, and Benjamin Brière, a French national who has been sentenced in Iran for espionage and propaganda.

Despite initial concerns from lawmakers from the governing partners, the parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Wednesday voted in favor of the treaty, which paves the way for its adoption by the full parliament next week.

The Iranian opposition, which protested against the deal in Brussels on Tuesday, reacted with disappointment to the vote. Shahin Gobadi, a spokesperson for the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, an Iranian opposition group in Paris, described it as a “shameful deal.”

The proposed treaty has also been critized in the U.S. Bob Menendez, chairman of the U.S. foreign relations committee, warned Belgium not to grant impunity to Assadi.

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