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Iran Sentences Belgian Aid Worker to Prison, Lashes

This is a locator map for Iran with its capital, Tehran. (AP Photo)
This is a locator map for Iran with its capital, Tehran. (AP Photo)

Iran has sentenced a Belgian aid worker to a lengthy prison term and 74 lashes after convicting him of espionage charges in a closed-door trial, state media reported Tuesday.

The website of Iran’s judiciary said a Revolutionary Court sentenced 41-year-old Olivier Vandecasteele to 12.5 years in prison for espionage, 12.5 years for collaboration with hostile governments and 12.5 years for money laundering. He was also fined $1 million and sentenced to 2.5 years for currency smuggling.

Under Iranian law, Vandecasteele would be eligible for release after 12.5 years. The judiciary website said the verdicts can be appealed.

Iran has detained a number of foreigners and dual nationals over the years, accusing them of espionage or other state security offenses and sentencing them after secretive trials in which rights groups say they are denied due process. Critics accuse Iran of using such prisoners as bargaining chips with the West, something Iranian officials deny.

Iran has not released any details about the charges against Vandecasteele. It is unclear if they are related to anti-government protests that have convulsed Iran for months or a long-running shadow war with Israel and the U.S. marked by covert attacks on Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

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