U.S. confirms Iran prisoner swap
Tehran frees five Americans, Washington grants pardon to seven Iranians
In a statement released on Saturday, the US Department of State confirmed details of the prisoner swap with Iran.
The statement reads in part: “Through the diplomatic channels set up to return home the imprisoned American citizens, we can confirm that Iran has released four Americans from prison: Amir Hekmati, Sayed Abedini, Jason Rezayan and Nosratolla Khosravi-Rudsari. Iran is also committed to working with the US to locate Robert Levinson. “.
The State Department later confirmed reports of the release in Iran of the fifth American student Matthew Trevithick, who was detained for 40 days while in Tehran as part of the accelerated study of the Dari language, close to Farsi..
“We have granted pardon to seven Iranians, six of whom have dual American-Iranian citizenship. They were convicted or awaiting trial in the United States. The United States also canceled its wanted list through Interpol and dropped all charges against 14 additional Iranians whose extradition requests had little chance of success. “.
American official sources in Vienna report that the five Americans freed in Iran were first flown to Switzerland, and from there to the US military base in Germany to provide them with medical assistance..
Iran announced on Saturday the release of five prisoners with dual US-Iranian citizenship as part of a prisoner exchange. Iranian media report that Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezayan is among those released.
In Vienna, a senior US administration official who asked to remain anonymous described the release of prisoners as a “humanitarian gesture”, stressing that it was not a spy exchange..
Representatives of the American administration, including Secretary of State John Kerry, are on Saturday in Vienna, where the announcement of the final implementation of the nuclear treaty between Tehran and the leading countries of the world – the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia is expected. The treaty requires Iran to abandon its nuclear development program in exchange for lifting international sanctions that have undermined the country’s economy.
Tehran’s public prosecutor Abbas Jafari said that “the release was carried out in accordance with the order of the Supreme National Security Council.”.
Rezayan, the head of the newspaper’s Tehran bureau, has dual American-Iranian citizenship. He was imprisoned for over 500 days and was convicted of espionage in a closed trial last year..
Three more freed Americans have been named: Amir Hekmati, a former US Marine who was arrested while visiting his family in Tehran in 2011, and Said Abedini, a Catholic pastor who was arrested in the Iranian capital in 2012 under similar circumstances. There is no detailed information about the fourth prisoner, it is known that his name is Nostratolla Khosravi.
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson has been held since 2007.
Very little is known about his case. US officials said they were not sure if Levinson was still alive, but in 2011 a video appeared on the Internet with an American, which described it as “proof that he is alive.”.
Iran insists that at the time of his arrest, Levinson was working under contract in a firm associated with the American CIA.
Long and difficult negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program culminated in the conclusion of a treaty last July. President Barack Obama and administration officials have said they are constantly negotiating to demand the release of American prisoners by Iran, but the administration has been heavily criticized for failing to secure strong promises from Iran to release American citizens..