Belgian plans for prisoner swap with Iran

A planned prisoner swap with Iran is fuelling debate in Belgium. The country's parliament passed in first reading a draft treaty under which an Iranian diplomat convicted as a terrorist in Antwerp could be exchanged for citizens with Belgian links, including a Swedish-Iranian scientist who taught at a Brussels university and has been sentenced to death. The press reflects on thorny trade-offs.

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De Standaard (BE) /

Energy crisis as leverage

There is more at stake here than human rights, says De Morgen:

“Larger and more powerful European countries are facing a tough energy winter and have an interest in being able to do business with Iran. This gives Iran an instrument with which it can demand something in return. Seen from this perspective, Belgium is 'unlucky' that it has something the Iranian regime wants: a convicted terrorist. ... As 'one for the team' we'll have to swallow a bitter pill: a very difficult deal for Belgium in exchange for an easy way out of the European energy crisis.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

A scandalous exchange

Blackmail should not be rewarded, argues De Volkskrant, condemning the plans:

“This is a scandalous form of barter: if one of our people is caught committing a crime, we arbitrarily grab citizens of yours. And as soon as an innocent human life is at stake it becomes very difficult to say 'no'. ... Western countries do not refuse to pay ransoms for kidnappings by criminals or terrorists for nothing. Blackmail only leads to more problems. Foul play by regimes trying to murder people in another country must not be rewarded. ”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Tehran will make a hero of this terrorist

Faced with this difficult decision, La Libre Belgique says there is no right or wrong:

“There is no doubt that Assadollah Assadi, if he were to benefit from this treaty, would be pardoned by the Iranian authorities even before he set foot on the tarmac at Tehran airport. He would be given a hero's welcome and would appear on television. Iran considers its agent a loyal soldier in the fight against the Iranian opposition in exile. But Belgium cannot let its people down - otherwise who else could protect them? In the face of this agonising decision, there are no right answers.”