A prisoner exchange between the United States and Iran is expected to take place Monday, a spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry confirmed
The planned deal, in which each country will release five prisoners, will go forward after $6 billion of unfrozen Iranian funds were transferred from South Korea to Qatar — a key part of the deal, The Hill reported.
Officials confirmed that the five freed Americans flew out of Tehran Monday, according to The Associated Press.
Why is the U.S. swapping prisoners with Iran?
Following over two years of negotiations to free five imprisoned Americans from Iran, details of a prisoner swap deal were released last month.
As a part of the prisoner swap, the U.S. agreed to issue a waiver that will give Iran $6 billion of frozen funds that were blocked by U.S. sanctions, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
In the waiver decision, which The Associated Press obtained last week, Blinken wrote, “To facilitate their release, the United States has committed to release five Iranian nationals currently held in the United States and to permit the transfer of approximately $6 billion in restricted Iranian funds held in (South Korea) to restricted accounts in Qatar, where the funds will be available only for humanitarian trade.”
Who are the prisoners being swapped?
The five American citizens detained in Iran who will be released under the new deal include:
- Two unidentified Americans.
- Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman who was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison in Iran for “allegedly spying and cooperating with the U.S. government,” per Reuters.
- Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American environmentalist who was sentenced in 2019 to 10 years in prison in Iran for allegedly colluding “against Iran’s national security.”
- Emad Shargi, an Iranian-American businessman who was sentenced in 2020 to 10 years in prison in Iran on espionage charges.
The five Iranian prisoners that the U.S. will release include:
- Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, an Iranian who in 2021 was charged with charged with acting as an unregistered agent of the Iranian government.
- Mehrdad Ansari, an Iranian who in 2021 was sentenced to 63 months in prison for illegally exporting military sensitive items.
- Amin Hasanzadeh, an Iranian and U.S. resident who in 2019 was charged with “allegedly stealing engineering plans from his employer to send to Iran,” per AP.
- Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, an Iranian who was charged in 2021 for illegally exporting laboratory equipment to Iran.
- Kambiz Attar Kashani, an Iranian-American sentenced at the beginning of this year to 30 months in prison for conspiring to provide electronic equipment and technology to the government of Iran.
When will the prisoners be released?
In a statement released Aug. 10, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson confirmed that the five Americans were released from prison in Iran and placed on house arrest amid negotiations for their release.
“Negotiations for their eventual release remain ongoing and are delicate,” Watson wrote at the time.
Now, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani has confirmed that the swap will take place Monday, The Associated Press reported.
“Fortunately Iran’s frozen assets in South Korea were released and God willing today the assets will start to be fully controlled by the government and the nation,” Kanaani said.
“On the subject of the prisoner swap, it will happen today and five prisoners, citizens of the Islamic Republic, will be released from the prisons in the U.S.,” he continued. “Five imprisoned citizens who were in Iran will be given to the U.S. side.”