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Olivier Vandecasteele: Iran jails Belgian aid worker for 28 years - family

Iran has sentenced a Belgian aid worker to 28 years in prison on unknown charges, his family has said.

Olivier Vandecasteele, 41, was arrested during a brief visit to Tehran in February and accused of espionage.

On Wednesday, his family said they had been informed of his sentence at a meeting with Belgium's prime minister.

There was no confirmation from Iran, but the news comes days after Belgium's constitutional court halted a controversial prisoner exchange treaty.

Iran wants to swap Mr Vandecasteele for its alleged top intelligence official in Europe, Assadollah Assadi. He was given a 20-year jail sentence in Belgium last year for plotting to bomb an exiled Iranian opposition group's rally.

Mr Vandecasteele worked for six years in Iran for the Norwegian Refugee Council and other aid agencies.

He left the country last year, but returned in February against Belgian government advice in order to close down his apartment in Tehran.

During the brief visit he was arrested by Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) operatives and taken to Tehran's notorious Evin prison, where a number of European and US citizens are being detained on spying charges.

His family allege that he has been subjected to "inhumane conditions" that amount to torture while in detention.

They say he has been kept the entire time in solitary confinement in a windowless basement cell and has suffered various health problems.


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