Saturday, September 23, 2023 | Rabi' al-awwal 7, 1445 H
scattered clouds
30°C / 30°C

Five US detainees leave Iran in prisoner swap deal

No Image

DOHA: Five US detainees released by Iran took off for Doha in a prisoner swap on Monday after $6 billion in frozen funds were transferred to Iranian accounts in Qatar.

The five left Iran on a Qatari plane accompanied by two relatives, left in exchange for five Iranians held by the United States.

"A Qatari jet has taken off with the five prisoners and two relatives accompanied by the Qatari ambassador," a source with knowledge of the situation said.

According to Iranian media, two of the freed Iranians have arrived in Doha. The other three have chosen to remain in the United States or a third country, Tehran said.

"We hope to have total access to the Iranian assets today," Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani had earlier on Monday told a Tehran press conference.

"The prisoner exchange will take place on the same day and five Iranian citizens imprisoned in America will be released."

As the prisoners were released, US President Joe Biden announced sanctions against Iran's ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country's intelligence ministry.

The five Americans were released to house arrest when the deal was agreed last month.

Last week, the official IRNA news agency identified the five Iranian prisoners.

They include Reza Sarhangpour 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.

Biden's administration has insisted that Iran will only be allowed to use the money in needs to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian goods.

Iran has denied restrictions have been placed on the spending of funds.

Iran's Kanani has insisted that the money will allow Tehran to "purchase all non-sanctioned goods", not just food and medicine.

Biden took office with hopes of restoring the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement, under which Iran promised to constrain its contested nuclear work in return for sanctions relief.

But months of talks failed to produce a breakthrough.

The release of the prisoners comes as Biden and Iran's president, Ebrahim Raisi, are in New York for the annual UN General Assembly, although they are not expected to meet. — AFP

arrow up
home icon