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Who are the prisoners exchanged between Iran and the United States?

Who are the prisoners exchanged between Iran and the United States?

Despite the absence of diplomatic relations, Iran and the United States carried out a prisoner exchange in Qatar on Monday as part of an agreement reached in August.

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This agreement, which is not related to the Iranian nuclear program, came in the wake of transferring six billion dollars of Iranian funds frozen in South Korea to a special account in Qatar to return them to Iran. From the sale of hydrocarbons by Iran, these funds were banned after US sanctions.

Americans released by Iran

Five Americans detained in Iran were transferred from prison to house arrest in August before being transferred to Qatar for release on Monday.

The most famous case was that of businessman Siamak Namazi, who was arrested in 2015 and sentenced to ten years in prison in 2016 on charges of espionage.

His octogenarian father, Muhammad Baqir Namazi, went to Iran to try to get him released. He was arrested and convicted before being relieved of his sentence in 2020 and leaving Iran in October 2022.

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Among the names is also investor Imad Sharqi, who was sentenced to ten years in prison on charges of espionage.

Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American who also holds British citizenship, was arrested in January 2018 and sentenced to ten years in prison on charges of “conspiring with America.”

The identities of the other two are unknown.

All of the detained Americans are of Iranian origin. Iran does not recognize dual citizenship and has not established diplomatic relations with the United States since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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Iranians released in the United States

Most of the Iranians detained in the United States are dual nationals accused of not respecting economic sanctions imposed by Washington.

In 2022, the Iranian judiciary reported the detention of “dozens” of Iranian citizens in the United States.

Among the five released Iranians were Reza Sarhangpour and Kambiz Attar Kashani, who were accused of “diverting US sanctions.”

Amin Hassanzadeh was convicted in 2020 of stealing technical data, while Mehrdad Moin Ansari was accused of seeking to obtain military equipment, and Lotfollah Kaveh Afrasiabi is considered an agent of the Iranian government, according to the US Department of Justice.

Two of the five released, Mehrdad Moin Ansari and Reza Sarhangpour, decided to return to Iran, while another was forced to go to a third country to reunite with his family, and the latter two remained in the United States, according to Iranian authorities.

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Previous exchanges

In June 2020, Tehran announced the return of two scientists detained in the United States: Cyrus Asgari, accused of stealing industrial secrets, and Majid Taheri.

Meanwhile, former US soldier Michael White, who was arrested in July 2018 and sentenced to ten years in prison for insulting Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has been released.

In December 2019, Tehran released Xue Wang, an American researcher imprisoned since 2016 on espionage charges, while Washington released Masoud Soleimani, a university professor detained since October 2018.

The exchange, which allowed The Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief, Jason Rezaian, who had been detained since July 2014 on “espionage” charges, to return to the United States, ended in January 2016 and received greater media coverage. This Iranian-American was exchanged for seven Iranians detained in the United States.

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In the absence of diplomatic relations, the two countries negotiated these releases through third countries, such as Qatar, Oman, or Switzerland, which represent American interests in Tehran.