Two countries exchange prisoners
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The USA and Iran exchanged five prisoners of each last Monday in Qatar. This happened after completing the transfer to Qatar of 6.000 million USD of Iranian funds. These are frozen in South Korea.
The exchange included five Iranians and five Americans. The Americans that had double nationality arrived to Qatar. From Qatar they will continue their journey back home. Qatar hosted eight secret and indirect rounds of negotiations between Washington DC and Tehran in 2022. The first conversations were focused on Tehran’s nuclear program. However, after both parties saw it was too complex and would not get anywhere, they shifted to prisoners.
The exchange took place after Doha confirmed Iranian fund transfering to banking accounts in Qatar. 6.000 million USD of Iranian oil funds frozen in South Korea since 2018 were unfrozen. Seoul was exempt from Iranian sanctions, since it is one of the major oil buyers of Iran. However, President Donald Trump imposed a total prohibition. Qatar notified Iranian and American government service personnel that money had been transferred from Switzerland to bank accounts in Qatar, according to a source with knowledge.
American prisoners to Iran. Source: Resistance Trench
Among the released Americans are entrepeneur Siamak Namazi. He was detained in 2015 and condemned to ten years in prison the following year. The other two released prisoners are Mohrad Tahbaz, a 67 years old environmentalist that also has British citizenship; and Emad Shargi, a 59 year old businessman. The identity of the remaining two is unknown, but they are anonymous military servicemen accused of spionage. They are four men and one woman, and also have Iranian citizenship. On the other hand, the released Iranians are Reza Sarhangopour and Kambiz Attar Kashani, accused of skipping US sanctions against Iran. Both are going back to their home country. Other two will remain in the US, while the fifth will reunite with his family in an undisclosed country. The five Iranians detained in the US are Mehrdad Moin-Ansari, Kambiz Attar-Kashani, Reza Sarhangpour-Kafrani, Amin Hassanzadeh and Kaveh Afrasiabi.
Two of the released Iranians in Qatar. Source: Resistance Trench
The mother of Siamak Namazi, Effie Namazi, travelled from Iran to Doha along with Vida Tahbaz, wife of Morad Tahbaz.
The exchange has been criticized by the Republican sector in the United States, which has accused President Joe Biden of paying Tehran in order to get the release of their citizens. The agreement has been described as a deal with a “terrorist” state that encourages further hostage taking. Among those critics was US ex President Donald Trump, for whom the deal is a “terrible precedent”. Further polemic includes accusations by the UK and other European governments against Iran of accumulating highly enriched uranium reserves with military means. Critics mention that it will be impossible to control money, and the US will be launching “fake” threats of withdrawing from negotiations if Iran breaks the agreement.
Hours before the agreement, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was flying to New York in order to participate in the UN Assembly, where he will give a press conference.
Ebrahim Raisi at the UN. Source: Resistance Trench
Biden thanked the “tireless” efforts from Switzerland, Qatar, Oman and South Korea, emphasizing the Qatari Emir and Omani Sultan who helped to culminate the agreement. He also remembered those who are still in Iranian custody, like FBI ex agent Robert Levinson. He added that US policy towards Tehran has not changed, announcing new sanctions. Iran has been accused of using prisoners with double nationality and foreigners as a pressure measure for prisoner exchange with other countries. This has been qualified as “hostage diplomacy” by other governments and human rights organizations.
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