IRAN - Prisoners' swap with US, Michael White and Majid Taheri

05 June 2020 :


Michael White Freed As Part Of Deal. The AP news agency quoted U.S. officials as saying his release was part of an agreement involving Majid Taheri, an Iranian-American physician prosecuted by the Justice Department. Taheri served 16 months for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and was sentenced on June 4 to time served, Fox News reported. It cited a senior U.S. official as saying he had lived in the United States for 33 years and is a medical doctor in Florida. U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who has been detained in Iran for nearly two years, is returning home after being freed from detention in Iran. U.S. officials said on June 4 that White’s release is part of a prisoner deal involving an American-Iranian doctor prosecuted in the United States. White was sentenced to 13 years in prison last year for allegedly insulting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and posting private information online. In March, he was temporarily released on medical grounds amid the coronavirus pandemic to the Swiss Embassy. The navy veteran was detained in July 2018 while he was visiting a woman he had met online and fallen in love with. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter he was “Pleased that Dr. Majid Taheri and Mr. White will soon be joining their families." Earlier in the day, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that White was “on a Swiss plane that just left Iranian Airspace” and should be home with his family "very soon." “I will never stop working to secure the release of all Americans held hostage overseas! Thank you Switzerland for your great assistance,” he wrote in a separate tweet. Switzerland, the intermediary between the U.S. and Iranian governments, has facilitated months of quiet negotiations over prisoners, reports said. Several other U.S. citizens are currently imprisoned in Iran or out on bail. At least three other Americans, all with dual U.S. and Iranian citizenship, are known to be in custody in Iran. They are Siamak Namazi, a business executive; his father, Baquer Namazi, a former Unicef diplomat; and Morad Tahbaz, an environmental activist. All were accused of collaboration with the United States. The developments follow the deportation to Iran this week of Sirios Asgari, an Iranian scientist detained in the United States. U.S. and Iranian officials have denied that his release was part of a prisoner swap. Sirous Asgari, a materials-science professor at Sharif University of Technology, was charged in 2016 with trying to steal trade secrets from a research project being carried out by Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. The 59-year-old Asgari, who denied the charge, was acquitted in November 2019 after a U.S. judge tossed out the case. In a post on Instagram on June 2, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed what he described as the "good news" of Asgari's return on a flight to Iran, and accused the United States of holding "hostage" several other Iranian scientists. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi said the scientist was scheduled to arrive in Iran on June 3. "Mr. Asgari was stranded in America for a while because of [being infected with] the coronavirus and the situation with flights," Musavi said. His return to Iran led to speculation that he could be part of another prisoner swap. But Musavi said that talk of a prisoner exchange was "groundless" because Asgari was "released on the basis of being acquitted." State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus later said that "Asgari is not and has never been a participant in any prisoner swap with Iran." The United States and Iran conducted a swap in December, when Chinese-American researcher Xiyue Wang and Iranian scientist Massud Soleimani were freed.


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