Fri, 22 Sep 2023

Who Are Detainees Released in US Prisoner Swap With Iran

Voice of America
19 Sep 2023, 07:36 GMT+10

Washington - As Washington and Tehran implemented a prisoner exchange Monday, new details emerged about the status of three of the five Iranians who were granted clemency by Washington and remained on U.S. soil as the prisoner transfers got underway.

VOA has learned that of the three Iranians remaining in the United States, a U.S. Justice Department website showed Kambiz Attar Kashani was still in detention at a federal prison in Michigan; court records showed Amin Hasanzadeh lost his U.S. permanent residency on August 23; and Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi received a pardon as he awaited trial on federal charges.

The Bureau of Prisons inmate locator showed Kashani, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, was still in custody at the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan, Michigan, on Monday. He was sentenced in February to 30 months in prison for conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and was set to be released in February.

A court document seen by VOA showed that Hasanzadeh, who has been on supervised release at his home pending trial on charges of violating U.S. sanctions, lost his permanent residency when it expired on August 23. A letter written to a judge in Michigan on that date by Hasanzadeh's attorneys said the expiry will make it 'substantially harder' for him to prove his 'lawful status for purposes of obtaining employment and certain public benefits.' The letter also said it will be 'likely impossible for him to return to the U.S. were he to travel internationally.'

One of the attorneys, Benton Martin, declined to comment when VOA contacted him Monday to ask about Hasanzadeh's status.

In a Monday court filing seen by VOA, Afrasiabi's attorney Sabrina Shroff asked a judge to cancel his January trial date due to his criminal case being 'resolved (by) the actions of the Executive Branch' of the U.S. government. She also requested that Afrasiabi be released from pretrial supervision of his movements and that his bail payments be refunded to him.

Afrasiabi, a U.S. permanent resident, has been awaiting trial since being charged by a New York federal court in 2021 for allegedly acting as an unregistered agent of Iran's government.

Jason Brodsky, policy director of U.S. advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, wrote on the X social media platform earlier Monday that granting Afrasiabi clemency raises the question of what future activities he would engage in while remaining in the U.S.

Here is a look at the five American citizens released Monday as part of the prisoner swap between the United States and Iran:

Siamak Namazi

Siamak Namazi, 51, was the longest held Iranian American detainee. He was arrested in 2015 and sentenced the following year to 10 years in Tehran's Evin Prison on charges of espionage. Months later, his father was arrested when he visited Iran to check on his son. The elder Namazi was later placed on house arrest and permitted to leave Iran in 2022 due to medical reasons. Namazi is an energy executive who promoted closer ties between the west and Iran.

Emad Sharghi

Emad Sharghi, 59, is an Iranian American venture capitalist who moved to Iran with his wife in 2017. He was detained the following year, but his family says he was released after going through eight months of interrogations. Authorities rearrested Sharghi while he was trying to leave the country while on bail. He was charged with espionage and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Morad Tahbaz

Morad Tahbaz, 67, was also sentenced to 10 years of prison. He is an Iranian American conservationist who also holds British citizenship. In 2018, he was arrested during an Iranian crackdown on environmental activists. Tahbaz had reportedly remained in prison despite an agreement between the United Kingdom and Iran that he be released from prison on furlough.

Two unnamed detainees

Two additional prisoners were released Monday, however they wished to be left anonymous.

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