Iran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced a Belgian aid worker to prison and 74 lashes after convicting him of espionage in a closed-door trial, according to Iranian state media on Tuesday.
A website of Iran’s judiciary said 41-year-old Olivier Vandecasteele had been sentenced 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 slapped with another 2.5 years and a $1million fine for currency smuggling.
Under Iranian law, he would be eligible for release after 12.5 years, and the verdicts are subject to appeal.
Iran did not release any details regarding the charges against Vandecasteele. It was not clear whether they were related to the nationwide anti-regime protests that first erupted in September in the days following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly improperly wearing her hijab, or head covering.
Vandecasteele’s arrest might have also been related to a long-running shadow war with Israel and the U.S. over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
Negotiations about returning to the 2015 nuclear agreement that was signed by the U.S., the UK, China, France, Russia, Germany and Iran, but that President Trump dismantled, had stymied over the summer, and now appear unlikely to be resumed anytime soon if at all, in part because of Iran’s brutal crackdown on its country’s protesters.
Over the weekend, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said efforts to return to nuclear negotiations with Iran was not top of the agenda.