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Iranian release of Iranian-Americans not conditional on asset unfreeze, US says

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An Iranian American jailed in Iran for nearly seven years on widely discredited espionage charges was temporarily released on Saturday, while Iran also lifted a travel ban on his ailing father, who had been jailed after traveling to the country to call for the release of your son.

Siamak Namazi, 51, and Baquer Namazi, 85, are among a growing list of US and European citizens who have been held by Iran as political pawns, according to Western officials.

Tehran said on Saturday that following the release of the Namazis, Washington would unfreeze $7 billion in Iranian assets held in South Korea due to US sanctions.

“With the completion of negotiations between Iran and the United States to release prisoners from both countries, $7 billion of Iran’s blocked resources will be released,” the state-run IRNA news agency said on Sunday.

A US State Department spokesman denied that assets were transferred as part of a deal. The spokesman, anonymous under State Department protocol, told The Washington Post that Washington was still working to secure the full release of Siamak Namazi, as well as several other US citizens jailed in Iran.

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British charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, released from Iran after almost six years, arrives in the UK

“We remain committed and determined to secure the freedom of all Americans wrongfully detained in Iran and elsewhere,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement Saturday.

Price also thanked “US allies and partners who have worked tirelessly to help the Namazis, including the UN Secretary General, Switzerland, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and the United Kingdom.”

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Iranian media reported on Saturday that an unnamed “regional country” helped facilitate the deal.

An informed source, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, told The Post that Iraq had a key role in mediating between Iran and its American and British counterparts.

Washington and Tehran severed diplomatic ties shortly after the 1979 revolution that brought Iran’s ruling clerics to power.

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For Iranian exiles, the Mahsa Amini protests are a source of hope and pain

But the two countries have more recently engaged in now-stalled indirect talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Washington left in 2018. Iran has billions of assets frozen in banks around the world due to Western sanctions. A return to the deal would include US sanctions relief needed to revive Iran’s collapsing economy.

State-affiliated media reports in Iran emphasized that the Namazi’s release coincided with a lack of progress around the nuclear deal.

The youngest Namazi, a businessman, was arrested in 2015 while visiting Iran and has been held in the notorious Evin prison. An Iranian court convicted him in 2016 on espionage charges, which he denied.

Namazi’s leave is for a week, during which he will stay with his family, Jared Genser, the family’s lawyer, told Reuters. It is not clear if the license will be extended.

The elder Namazi, a former UN official, traveled to Iran in 2016 to call for his son’s release. He was subsequently arrested and convicted of “collaboration with a hostile government.” Authorities suspended him from prison in 2018 due to health problems and closed his case in 2020, although he remained under a travel ban.

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“The secretary-general is grateful that, following his appeals to the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, our former colleague Baquer Namazi has been allowed to leave Iran for medical treatment abroad,” a spokesman for the secretary-general said on Saturday. UN General António Guterres. a declaration.

“This is a critical first step, but of course we will not rest until the entire family is able to return to the United States and their long nightmare is finally over,” Genser, the family’s lawyer, told Reuters.

Former political prisoners have described being subjected to abuse, torture and forced confessions to crimes such as espionage, while in prison.

What is behind the protests in Iran?

Iran has falsely blamed “foreign enemies” for fomenting more than two weeks of anti-government protests across the country sparked last month by the death of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, while in police custody. Authorities said on Friday they had arrested nine European citizens for their role in the protests in a move likely to heighten tensions with the West.

US, European and UN officials have condemned Iran’s crackdown on protesters, which has included the use of live ammunition and cutting off Internet access. At least 52 protesters were killed and hundreds more were injured and arrested, according to London-based Amnesty International.

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ERICAS Venezuela Releases 7 Imprisoned Americans in Exchange for Maduro Family Drug Traffickers

The demonstrations, which have drawn people from a cross-section of ethnic, geographic and class groups, are the biggest wave of unrest since a wave of protests in 2019 sparked by economic grievances.

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In another case, Venezuela, another US adversary, said Saturday that it had freed seven Americans held for nearly five years. The detainees, among whom were five executives of oil companies, were exchanged for two nephews of the wife of President Nicolás Maduro imprisoned in the United States for drug trafficking.

John Hudson contributed reporting from Washington; Mustafa Salim contributed reporting from Baghdad.

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