Prisoner swap secures release of 5 US citizens, unfreezes $6bn in Iranian assets

Tehran, Sep 18 (EFE).- Five US citizens detained by Iran flew out of Tehran on Monday after Washington and Tehran pulled off a prisoner swap deal that also encompassed the release of nearly $6 billion in Iranian assets.

A handout picture made available by Iran’s Nournews agency shows Iran nationals Mehrdad Moin-Ansari (L) and Reza Sarhangpour-Kafrani (R), former prisoners in USA, posing for a photo during a prisoner swap between Iran and United States, at the Doha airport in Doha, Qatar, 18 September 2023. EFE-EPA/NOURNEWS HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

Iran’s Press TV reported that the five prisoners departed Tehran aboard a Qatari plane bound for Doha, before flying to the United States.

Among the three identified released prisoners are alleged US spies Siamak Namazi and Emad Shargi, along with Morad Tahbaz, who had been serving a 10-year sentence for maintaining connections with the US government.

Namazi’s mother and Tahbaz’s wife accompanied them on their journey.

A handout photo made available by the Iranian Presidential office shows, Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi gesturing during a farewell ceremony as he departs to New York to attend the UN General Assembly, at the Mehr Abad airport in Tehran, Iran, early morning 18 September 2023. (Nueva York, Teherán) EFE/EPA/IRANIAN PRESIDENT’S OFFICE / HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

The identities of the remaining two prisoners have not yet been disclosed.

The release of the five prisoners, all possessing dual Iranian-American nationality, is the result of a prisoner exchange pact between Iran and the US.

The US also freed five Iranian prisoners and facilitated the release of approximately $6 billion in financial assets that were previously frozen in South Korea.

Press TV reported that two of the released Iranian prisoners, Mehrdad Moin Ansari and Reza Sarhangpour, arrived in Doha on Monday and were scheduled to travel to Tehran.

The remaining Iranian citizens involved in the exchange are Kambiz Attar Kashani, Amin Hassanzadeh, and Kaveh Lotfollah Afrasiabi. Two of them will remain in the United States, while the fifth will travel to a yet-to-be-disclosed third country.

Despite longstanding diplomatic tensions, the two nations reached this prisoner exchange agreement in early August.

The US granted a waiver to release the funds, representing debts owed by Seoul for its purchase of gas from Iran.

The funds have since been transferred to several accounts in Qatar. The US clarified that Iran would not have “direct” access to these funds, which are designated for “strictly humanitarian purposes.”

Just hours before the announcement of the prisoner swap, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi embarked on a journey to New York to address the UN General Assembly,

He is expected to hold a press conference in New York, as reported by Iranian media.

Iran has been alleged of using dual nationals and foreign prisoners as leverage for negotiating prisoner exchanges with other countries, a practice described as “hostage diplomacy” by various nations and human rights organizations. EFE