TEHRAN, May 26 (Xinhua) -- Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Friday that an Iranian diplomat imprisoned in Belgium for almost five years will return to his country in a few hours.
Nasser Kanaani made the remarks in a statement published on the Iranian Foreign Ministry's website, announcing the release of Assadollah Assadi five years after his arrest in Germany and consequent transfer to a prison in Belgium.
Kanaani said Assadi was "taken hostage" in Germany on June 30, 2018, as a result of a "conspiracy organized by Israel" and implemented by certain European intelligence services.
He added Assadi's arrest was an "Israeli-U.S. plot" played out to sabotage relations between Iran and Europe right after Washington's unilateral withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in May 2018.
He stressed that Iran has adopted "logical" positions in defense of its citizen, and in addition to protesting and condemning the violation of Assadi's diplomatic immunity, did its best to free him.
Kanaani said following continuous joint security meetings between the two countries and consultations between Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Belgian counterpart Hadja Lahbib, eventually Iran managed to release the diplomat through a bilateral agreement with the Belgian government.
Assadi, who was transferred to Belgium in October 2018, was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Belgian court in February 2021, after being accused of planning an alleged "attack" against the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization, which Iran designates as a terrorist group.
In late April, the Iranian judiciary spokesman Masoud Setayeshi said Assadi will soon be released in a prisoner swap, after Tehran and Brussels finalized a swap deal over a Belgian citizen named Olivier Vandecasteele, who was arrested by security forces in Iran in February 2022 on a charge of "spying against Iran under the guise of an aid worker and smuggling."