Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency says Tehran has freed Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and three other Iranian-American dual nationals in a prisoner-swap deal.
cartoon by Keyvan Varessi, Iranian daily Ghanoon
Rezaian, the Post's Tehran bureau chief, had been imprisoned in Iran for more than a year on espionage charges. He and The Washington Post have repeatedly denied the charges, saying he was arrested as a bargaining chip in a larger political game.
Also released were pastor Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American in jail for three years after being convicted of undermining national security, and former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, who is serving 10 years for cooperating with hostile governments.
There are mixed reports about the identity of the fourth freed prisoner.
The Iranian-Americans freed by Iran today (left to right):
Amir Hekmati, Jason Rezaian, Saeed Abedini
Iran state television identified him as Nosratollah Khosravi, also an Iranian-American. Iran's IRNA news agency, however, said the fourth person was Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi.
The AP news agency quotes an unidentified U.S. official as saying that Iran is also releasing a fifth detained American, unrelated to the prisoner swap.
Iranian news agencies quoted the Tehran public prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi, as saying the release was "in the national interest" of Iran.
The official IRNA news agency quoted the prosecutor as saying the United States will release seven Iranian nationals currently serving jail terms in the prisoner swap.
IRNA named the freed Iranians as Nader Modanlo, Bahram Mechanic, Khosrow Afghahi, Arash Ghahreman, Tooraj Faridi, Nima Golestaneh, and Ali Sabouni.
Reuters quotes an unidentified U.S. official as confirming Washington will release seven Iranians, six of whom are dual U.S. citizens, held for sanctions violations.
There are a dozen Iranians imprisoned or facing charges in the United States on sanctions-busting charges, according to a recent Reuters review of cases. U.S. Prosecutors say they violated economic sanctions against Iran by supplying technology that could have been used to bolster its military and nuclear programs.
Tehran's announcement of the prisoner swap came as Iran and world powers led by the United States are expected on January 16 to finally implement July's nuclear deal, which will lift international sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic.
The lifting of sanctions is expected to come as the UN's nuclear watchdog agency says Tehran has fulfilled its obligations to restrict its nuclear programs under the deal.
With reporting by AFP, dpa, and AP
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