Belgium is a country that describes itself as being in the heart of Europe. It hosts the headquarters of the European Parliament and the European Commission. It prides itself on embracing the institutions that have promulgated the EU’s core pillars of freedom, justice and human rights. At a single stroke, Belgium’s Prime Minister - Alexander De Croo and his government, have destroyed that legacy and plunged their country into Europe’s Hall of Shame. By freeing the Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail for his role in a plan to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris, the Belgian government has scraped the bottom of the barrel of ignominy.

Assadi and his three co-conspirators were tried in Belgium in 2021 for attempting to bomb a mass opposition rally at Villepinte, near Paris in 2018. According to the verdict in the Antwerp Court, Assadi was a senior agent of the Iranian regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). He was using the cover of being a diplomat in the Iranian embassy in Vienna to enable him to plan a terrorist bomb attack that would have caused carnage on European soil, potentially killing hundreds of men, women, and children. 

Evidence from the Belgian prosecutor showed how Assadi had allegedly brought the professionally assembled 550gm TATP bomb on a commercial flight to Vienna from Tehran in his diplomatic bag and passed it, together with an envelope containing €22,000, to two of his co-conspirators. The court was told that Assadi had instructed them how to prime and detonate the device. A third co-conspirator was posted at the Villepinte rally as a lookout. Last year the mullahs saw a Belgian appeal court extend the prison terms of the three co-conspirators who helped Assadi in his attempt to bomb the mass Iranian opposition rally in the summer of 2018. Assadi, however, did not appeal, assured by the mullahs’ government that they would secure his release.

There is no doubt Assadi’s terrorist plot was ordered from the highest echelons of the regime, including the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the president at that time Hassan Rouhani and the then foreign Minister Javad Zarif. The EU should have demanded they be held to account, but predictably, Europe’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security – Josep Borrell – said nothing and did nothing.  He is one of the arch appeasers of the mullahs’ fascist regime, as is Charles Michel, former Belgian Prime Minister and now President of the European Council, who has repeatedly confirmed his support for re-opening dialogue with Iran. Neither Borrell nor Michel have issued a statement condemning the scandalous prisoner swap and both have now been joined in the apex appeasement rankings by De Croo and his lickspittle government.

The recent release of masses of documents hacked from the Iranian regime’s ministry of foreign affairs in Tehran showed how the regime went into overdrive to secure Assadi’s release, claiming diplomatic immunity and when that failed, taking a Belgian charity worker - Olivier Vandecasteele, hostage in Iran, accusing him of spying and sentencing him to 40 years imprisonment, a $1 million fine, and 74 lashes. The documents illuminate how Tehran used this tactic to negotiate a prisoner exchange with Belgium, as far back as 2021. The fact that the Belgian government capitulated to this scandalous blackmail and did so in open defiance of their own Constitutional Court, which clearly stated in its judgement that the victims of Assadi’s attempted act of terrorism on European soil should be informed before any such prisoner transfer could take place, must surely rank as one of the most reprehensible and egregious acts of appeasement of any government since the days of WWII. 

Prime Minister De Croo even boasted in a lengthy public statement how he had secured Vandecasteele’s release after 455 days in prison in Tehran under “unbearable conditions.” He said “Olivier Vandecasteele’s return to Belgium is a relief. A relief for his family, friends and colleagues.” He made no mention of the fact that he had allowed Assadi to be sent home to a hero’s welcome, under the disgraceful prisoner-swap deal. In July last year, seventy-nine Belgian MPs voted in favour of the scandalous prisoner swap agreement and forty-one voted against, out of the one hundred and thirty-one MPs present. Eleven abstained. In a statement the government insisted that it was not surrendering to blackmail and that it was motivated by a desire to prevent Belgian citizens from rotting in jail. Strenuous efforts to stop the prisoner swap deal, by potential victims of Assadi’s bomb plot, who attended the opposition rally in Villepinte, have continued ever since in the Belgian courts. But is seems that in open defiance of the core principles of EU law and justice, the Belgian government feels that it can run a cart and horses through its own legal system and ignore the rulings of its own senior judges. 

By succumbing to the Iranian regime’s outrageous hostage diplomacy, De Croo and his government have simply emboldened the mullahs to perpetrate further acts of terror in the EU in the knowledge that they can ensure the release of their terrorists by the simple expedient of taking hostages and committing criminal blackmail. The outrage is compounded by the fact that following Assadi’s trial, the then justice minister in Belgium, Vincent Van Quickenborne, said: “There was no question of a prisoner exchange. We are not going to challenge the principles of our constitutional state.” Quickenbrone’s assurances can now be contrasted with the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran, a repressive and tyrannical pariah state, has been rewarded for using its diplomats as terrorists. This is a shameful betrayal of EU law by Belgium and the next time a terrorist from the Iranian regime kills or maims innocent victims on European soil, De Croo and his doleful band of appeaser colleagues must surely be held to account. They will have the blood of innocent people on their hands.