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Briton Morad Tahbaz and four Americans freed from Iran detention land in Doha after £4.8bn deal

The deal also included the release of five unnamed Iranian nationals detained in the United States. Tahbaz’s daughter Roxanne was among those calling on the UK government to do more to free the prominent conservationist while he was held by the Iranian regime.

By Samuel Osborne, news reporter @samuelosborne93

Monday 18 September 2023 20:06, United Kingdom

A British citizen and four Americans who were released from detention by Iran in exchange for $6 billion and a prisoner swap are now free after landing in Doha.

The group’s plane landed in the Qatari capital shortly after 3.30pm UK time, following its departure from Tehran. They are believed to have boarded another plane in Doha and are expected to arrive in the United States later Monday night.

The freed Briton is environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, 67, who has British, American and Iranian citizenship.

He was among the dual nationals detained at the time negotiations were underway with the UK government to release the former detainee. I don’t know Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

The group was joined on the flight by two family members and Qatar’s ambassador to Iran, a source told Reuters.

The $6 billion funds, once frozen in South Korea, were released in Qatar after the Biden The Trump administration has issued a waiver for international banks to transfer frozen Iranian money without the repercussions of US sanctions, an Iranian official announced on state television.

He The agreement also included the release of five Iranian citizens. held in the U.S. Two of them, named in Iranian media reports as Mehrdad Moin-Ansari and Reza Sarhangpour-Kafrani, landed in Tehran on Monday after also stopping in Qatar.

Emad Sharghi, Morad Tahbaz and Siamak Namazi land in Doha. Photo: AP

Imprisoned in a famous prison

Among the dual U.S.-Iranian nationals released by Iran are businessmen Siamak Namazi, 51, and Emad Shargi, 58.

Along with Tahbaz, they had all been imprisoned in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison on espionage charges.

In a statement upon landing in Doha on Monday, Namazi thanked everyone who “did not let the world forget me” after spending 2,898 days behind bars.

“For almost eight years I have been dreaming of this day. Now that it has finally arrived, I find that my ineffable joy at my upcoming reunification with my family is mixed with sadness: a painful, deep sense of guilt for breathing free while so many people brave people that I love and admire continue to languish behind those walls,” he said.

“They are detained for demanding the dignity and freedom to which every human being is inherently entitled; for reporting the truth; for worshiping their God; for being a woman. For nothing.”

He added: “What I want more than anything is the assurance that no one else will know the endless anguish that my family and I experienced. But sadly, many are suffering such miseries right now.”

Prisoner exchange between Iran and the United States represents a delicate diplomatic move

This prisoner exchange, or “consular agreement,” represents a delicate diplomatic move and we can expect the Biden administration to welcome the good news that comes with it.

“The president is restoring the integrity of five families and that’s what this is about,” a senior administration official told me last night.

It’s delicate because it involves a lot of money, and it’s delicate because the United States doesn’t want anyone to think that the deal reflects any kind of change in the United States’ position on Iran.

“This deal has not changed our relationship with Iran in any way. Iran is an adversary and a state sponsor of terrorism,” the administration official said.

The key controversy revolves around $6 billion in Iranian cash currently sitting in South Korean banks.

As part of the deal, the United States has issued a specific waiver to its sanctions against Iran, allowing funds to be transferred to Qatar for Iran to use for humanitarian purposes.

“Medicines, medical devices, food and agriculture. That’s it,” the senior White House official said.

The identity of the fourth and fifth prisoners to be released has not been made public.

In addition to the two former Iranian prisoners who arrived in Tehran after being released by U.S. officials, two others will remain in the United States and one detainee will be reunited with his family in a third country, an Iranian government spokesman said.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said earlier: “The issue of prisoner exchange will be resolved that day and five prisoners, citizens of the Islamic Republic, will be released from US prisons.

“Five imprisoned citizens who were in Iran will be handed over to the US side on a reciprocal basis, according to their will. We hope that these two issues will be fully carried out on the basis of an agreement.”

It comes weeks after Iran said the five were released from prison and placed under house arrest.

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From left, Morad Tahbaz, Siamak Namazi and Emad Sharghi walk away from the plane arm in arm. Photo: AP

A British citizen among those released.

London-born Tahbaz was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for “assembly and collusion against the national security of Iran” and for working for the United States as a spy.

At various stages, he has been the subject of ongoing negotiations for his release involving British authorities, including when Dominic Raab and Liz Truss were foreign secretaries.

He was temporarily released the same day. charity worker Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and retired civil engineer Anoosheh Ashoori were released, but he later returned to custody.

His daughter Roxanne had been among those who called the UK government to do more to secure his release.

He is a prominent conservationist and a board member of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, which seeks to protect endangered species.

Namazi was convicted in 2016 on espionage-related charges that the United States rejected as unfounded and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Roxanne Tahbaz holds a photograph of her father Morad Tahbaz during a protest outside the Foreign Office in London.

Shargi was convicted of espionage in 2020 and also sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The South Korean money represents funds Seoul owed Iran, but had not yet paid, for oil purchased before Donald Trump’s administration imposed sanctions on such transactions in 2019.

The United States maintains that the money will be kept in restricted accounts in Qatar and can only be used for humanitarian goods such as medicine and food, transactions permitted under US sanctions against the Islamic Republic for its advance in the nuclear program.

The West has accused Iran of using foreign prisoners as bargaining chips, an accusation Tehran rejects.

It came as Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi arrived in New York on Monday for a series of events, including a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told Sky News it was right that the leader came so he could be “held to account”.

The president will also attend an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations think tank, which invited him to speak Tuesday. Mr Cleverly will appear in the same function.

But critics on social media have said Raisi should have been greeted with handcuffs in New York, rather than invitations to speak, because of his government’s policy. oppression of a year of protests in Iran.

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