Mon 18 September 2023:
Iran has released five American citizens as part of a Qatari-mediated prisoner exchange with the United States, which also freed five Iranians.
The US citizens and two of the five Iranians have landed in Qatar’s capital, Doha, before making their way to their own countries. The three other released Iranians are not returning to Iran, with two staying in the US and one going on to a third country.
Iranian officials have named the five Iranian citizens who are expected to be released by the US.
They include Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani and Kambiz Attar Kashani, both accused of having violated US sanctions against Tehran.
A third prisoner, Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, was detained at his home near Boston in 2021 and charged with being an Iranian government agent, according to US officials.
The two others, Mehrdad Moein Ansari and Amin Hasanzadeh, were said to have links to Iranian security forces.
Funds are received by Qatari accounts of six Iranian banks: Official
Reza Farzin, Iran’s Central Bank chief, has said Keshavarzi, Shahr, Pasargad, Gardeshgari, Karafarin and Saman are the banks that received the $6bn in their bank accounts in Qatar.
The process was conducted by the international agents of the two Qatari banks through the SWIFT system.
The system could apparently be used as a result of sanction waivers issued by Washington earlier in September.
Biden hails release, praises Qatar and Oman
US President Biden has thanked Qatar, Oman, Switzerland and South Korea for their role in negotiating the prisoner swap with Iran.
“I give special thanks to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, and to the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq, both of whom helped facilitate this agreement over many months of difficult and principled American diplomacy,” Biden said in a statement.
The White House released the statement as the five released US prisoners landed in Doha, Qatar.
‘Emotional conversation’: Blinken says he spoke to prisoners released by Iran
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he spoke to the prisoners released by Iran after they landed in Qatar.
“I can tell you that it was for them, for me, an emotional conversation,” he said.
“Today, their freedom, the freedom of these Americans for so long, unjustly imprisoned and detained in Iran means some pretty basic things,” he said.
“It means that husbands and wives, fathers and children, grandparents can hug each other again, can see each other again, can be with each other again.”
Freed US citizen says Biden put ‘lives of American citizens above politics’
One of the five US citizens released from Iran has hailed Biden for resisting political backlash and moving forward with the prisoner swap.
“My heartfelt gratitude goes to President Biden and his administration, which had to make some incredibly difficult decisions,” Siamak Namazi said in a statement. “Thank you President Biden for ultimately putting the lives of American citizens above politics.”
Namazi added there were “no good options” in dealing with the Iranian government, but called on Biden “to initiate a game-changing global endeavour aimed at preventing hostage-taking in the first place” during the United Nations General Assembly later this week.
Donald Trump, who nixed Iran nuclear deal, slams prisoner swap
Former US President Donald Trump has slammed the prisoner swap deal, calling Biden “dumb” for agreeing to unfreeze the Iranian funds.
“This absolutely ridiculous 6 Billion Dollar Hostage Deal with Iran has set a terrible PRECEDENT for the future,” Trump, the frontrunner in the 2024 Republican presidential nomination race, wrote in a post on his Truth Social website.
“Buckel [sic] up, you are going to see some terrible things start to happen. The 3 years ago highly respected USA has become a laughingstock all over the WORLD. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. VOTE TRUMP!!!”
Iran’s Raisi calls release of US detainees ‘purely a humanitarian action’
Ebrahim Raisi, the president of Iran, has called the release of the five US detainees “purely a humanitarian action”.
“It can certainly be a step based upon which in the future other humanitarian actions can be taken,” Raisi told reporters after his arrival in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly
Last week, Raisi had told a US news channel that it was up to Iran to decide what to do with the $6bn in funds released as part of the deal.
“[It] belongs to the Iranian people, the Iranian government, so the Islamic Republic of Iran will decide what to do with this money,” Raisi said in the interview with NBC Nightly News.
SOURCE: INDEPENDENT PRESS AND NEWS AGENCIES
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