Tehran urges U.S. to free all Iranian hostages after prisoner swap

June 5, 2020 - 12:32

TEHRAN — Tehran has confirmed a prisoner swap between Iran and the United States, urging Washington to release all Iranian hostages held by the U.S. government.

“Pleased that Dr. Majid Taheri and Mr. White will soon be joining their families,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Thursday. “Prof. Sirous Asgari was happily reunited with his family on Weds.”

“This can happen for all prisoners,” Zarif said, adding, “No need for cherry picking. Iranian hostages held in—and on behalf of—the US should come home.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi also confirmed on Thursday that Dr. Majid Taheri, an Iranian scientist who had been imprisoned in the U.S., was released from jail.

Taheri spent 16 months in prison for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Zarif said in December that Tehran was ready for a full prisoner exchange with the United States, tweeting: “The ball is in the US' court”.

In his statement, Mousavi also said U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who had been in jail in Iran, was released after being granted Islamic mercy for his crimes.

Mr. White was released from jail given the time served and in respect of human rights considerations, and left Iran on Thursday, he said.

“So great to have Michael home,” U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday. “Just arrived. Very exciting. Thank you to Iran. Don’t wait until after U.S. Election to make the Big deal. I’m going to win. You’ll make a better deal now!”

In an earlier tweet, Trump said, “We have now brought more than 40 American hostages and detainees back home since I took office.”

“Thank you to Iran, it shows a deal is possible!” he added.

White’s release came a day after Iranian scientist Sirous Asgari, who had been held by United States immigration authorities for months, arrived in Tehran. 

Asgari, who has a history of respiratory problems, was exonerated in a U.S. sanctions trial last year, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) jail in Louisiana had refused to release him or allow him to return to Iran.

He had tested positive for coronavirus in prison. He broke the story in an interview with the Guardian on April 28.

“It makes sense to send me to the hospital as soon as possible. I don’t trust them at all,” the 59-year-old said at the time, amid repeated coughing fits. “If something happens, they are not fast responders … I prefer to leave this dirty place.”

Asgari’s story sparked international outrage after he spoke about his fears of COVID-19 spreading inside crowded ICE facilities with substandard cleaning practices and a lack of supplies.

MH/PA

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