Belgian Foreign Minister in trouble over invitations for Iranians and Russians

Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib is under fire for issuing visas to delegations from Iranian and Russian towns to attend a mayors’ conference in Brussels last week.

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Lahbib is being investigated for approving visa petitions for people of two nations under international sanctions, just three weeks after Belgian NGO worker Olivier Vandecasteele was freed from an Iranian prison, Euractiv reported.

Vandecasteele was detained during a visit to Iran in February 2022 and sentenced to 40 years in jail and 74 lashes in January on charges that included spying.

He was released last month in exchange for an Iranian diplomat imprisoned in Belgium in connection with an unsuccessful bomb plot. Three other Europeans were released from Iranian prisons a few days later as part of the same bargain.

The “Brussels Urban Summit,” which took place last week, brought together mayors from over 300 worldwide cities, including Brussels, Bogota, Kyiv, and Tehran, as well as officials of the European Commission and the European Parliament, to examine the problems that cities face.

Pascal Smet, the Brussels government’s state secretary for external relations and international commerce, resigned in protest of the all-expenses-paid trip.

Smet stated that he was unaware of the email and that a member had made the error in his cabinet.

Belgo-Darya Safai, an Iranian politician from the opposition party N-VA, stated that the party is calling for Lahbib’s resignation.

“The pending question is why did she agree to give these visas? Why does she allow terrorists to come to Brussels only three weeks after the release of Olivier Vandecasteele? “And why should foreign relations taint Belgium’s name that it cannot control?” she asked.

The foreign ministry has not promptly provided an official statement on this topic. Belgian legislators will meet on June 21 to examine the subject.

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