U.S. drops charges against two Iranian scientists after prisoner swap

December 14, 2019 - 20:51

TEHRAN – The United States has dropped charges against two Iranian researchers it had accused of attempting to export chemicals to Iran in violation of trade sanctions.

An Atlanta-based federal judge on Wednesday dismissed sanctions-violation cases against scientists Mahboobe Ghaedi and Maryam Jazayeri, Politico reported on Thursday.

Both women were co-defendants in the prosecution of Masoud Soleimani, a renowned Iranian stem-cell researcher who was arrested last year in the U.S.

The decision followed a prisoner exchange between Iran and the U.S. in which the United States freed Soleimani and Iran released a jailed U.S. student and both were allowed to return to their home countries last week.

Soleimani left Iran on sabbatical last year but was arrested upon arrival in Chicago and transferred to the prison in Atlanta, Georgia for unspecified reasons.

Following the prisoner swap, Soleimani flew along with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif from Zurich to Tehran on December 7.

The prisoner exchange happened through mediation efforts by Switzerland. 

On December 7, Iran 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. 

In a tweet last week, 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 gifts), returned during the Trump Administration,” Trump wrote.

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

Observers say he enjoyed killing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal because it was Obama’s major foreign policy success.

Meanwhile, Iran has voiced readiness for a full prisoner swap with the United States, saying that the “ball is in the U.S.’s court”.

“After getting our hostage back this week, fully ready for a comprehensive prisoner exchange,” Zarif said via Twitter on Monday.

MH/PA

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