Released professor Massoud Soleimani: ‘U.S. jailors told other inmates I was a terrorist’

December 8, 2019 - 19:0

TEHRAN – Iranian scientist Massoud Soleimani, who returned home on Saturday after a prisoner swap between Tehran and Washington, says during his detention, the U.S. jail wardens told other prisoners that he was a terrorist with a mission to carry out bombings in the United States.

“U.S. authorities in the jail had told prisoners that I was a terrorist who wanted to carry out bombings in America,” Press TV quoted Soleimani as saying upon arrival at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport on Saturday night.  

“They had made such false statements so that other prisoners would not come close to me and keep away from me,” he said.

“After a while, the inmates would tell me, ‘you do not look like a terrorist and a bomber, what these guys are saying’ and I would tell them I don’t know what they are saying,” the Iranian scientist added.

Masoud Soleimani, a 49-year-old stem cell scientist, left Iran on sabbatical last year, but was arrested upon arrival in Chicago and transferred to prison in Atlanta, Georgia for unspecified reasons.

The United States released him in a prisoner exchange, after which Soleimani flew along with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif from Zurich to Tehran on Saturday.

The prisoner exchange happened through mediation efforts by Switzerland. 

On Saturday, Iran also freed an American graduate student who had been imprisoned in Tehran for more than three years on charges of being a spy.

Xiyue Wang was flown in a Swiss government airplane from Tehran to Zurich, where he was met by Brian H. Hook, the U.S. State Department’s special representative for Iran, according to two senior United States officials.

Zarif said he was happy that Soleimani and Xiyue are joining their families. 

“Glad that Professor Massoud Soleimani and Mr. Xiyue Wang will be joining their families shortly. Many thanks to all engaged, particularly the Swiss government,” Zarif tweeted on Saturday.

The White House confirmed the prisoner swap early on Saturday as well with a statement from President Trump, at a moment of high tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Trump has imposed the harshest ever sanctions against Iran since he pulled the United States out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. 

Trump’s administration has even threatened to penalize any country or company that does business with Iran. 

Under the nuclear accord, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to put limits on its nuclear activities in exchange for termination of economic and financial sanctions.

In a tweet on Saturday, Trump thanked Iran “on a very fair negotiation.”

“See, we can make a deal together!” he wrote.

The U.S. president also bashed his predecessor, Barack Obama, saying the released American student was taken during the Obama administration.

“Taken during the Obama Administration (despite $150 Billion gift), returned during the Trump Administration,” Trump wrote.

Trump has been very critical of Obama’s Iran policy.

Observers say he enjoyed killing the JCPOA because it was Obama’s major foreign policy success.

In another tweet on Saturday, Trump claimed, “The United States will not rest until we bring every American wrongfully detained in Iran and around the world back home to their loved ones!”

Since assuming office, Trump’s anti-Iran rhetoric and actions have intensified tension between Tehran and Washington. His policies have also escalated regional tensions, especially in the Persian Gulf.

In reaction to Trump’s strategy of “maximum pressure”, which includes illegal sanctions, Iran has said it is adopting “maximum resistance”.

MH/PA

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