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Iran-US prisoner swap ongoing after $6bn transfer


Iran has released five American prisoners, moving them to Tehran’s airport for a flight to the Qatari capital, Doha, as part of a prisoner exchange with the United States.

Four of the five were moved to house arrest last month as part of the deal. The fifth prisoner had been moved to house arrest earlier.

Monday’s developments signal that the prisoner exchange clinched last month has gone through. The agreement also includes a release of frozen Iranian funds.

The Agreement:

The United States and Iran will each free five prisoners under an agreement that also involves the transfer of $6bn of frozen Iranian assets from South Korea.

The deal first made public on August 10, will remove a major irritant between Washington and Tehran although the rivals remain deeply at odds over a range of other issues.

Iran and the US have a history of prisoner swaps dating back to the 1979 US embassy takeover and hostage crisis following the Iranian Revolution.

There has been no indication the prisoner deal will spur movement on restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, which saw Tehran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions against its economy. The US withdrew from that agreement in 2018.

The prisoners :

Five Iranian prisoners are expected to be released by the US as part of the deal:

Kaveh Afrasiabi, a political scientist and US resident who was charged with being an unregistered agent for the Iranian government.

Mehrdad Moein Ansari, a 40-year-old Iranian resident of the United Arab Emirates and Germany who was convicted of violating sanctions on Iran.

Amin Hassanzadeh, a permanent US resident accused four years ago of stealing secrets to send to Iran.

Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, a 46-year-old who is also a Canadian national charged with illegally exporting laboratory equipment to Iran.

Kambiz Attar Kashani, a 44-year-old dual national convicted of conspiring to illegally export technologies and goods to Iran.

Only two of the Iranian prisoners will return to Iran, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said. “One of them, as he has family in another country, will be moved to join them in that third country, and apparently two of our citizens imprisoned in the US have said they wish to remain there due to their history of staying there,” Kanani said.

The identities of three of the American prisoners, all of whom were arrested on charges of espionage and collaborating with a foreign government, are known. They are:

Siamak Namazi, a 51-year-old businessman held in Evin Prison since 2015, making him the longest-serving American prisoner in Iran.

Emad Sharghi, a 59-year-old businessman arrested in 2018.

Morad Tahbaz, a 67-year-old environmentalist who also holds British citizenship and was arrested in 2018.

The identities of the other two prisoners have remained secret, but Western media have reported that one is a woman.


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