The agreement also includes the release of five unnamed Iranian citizens 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 detained by the Iranian regime.
By Samuel Osborne, news reporter @samuelosborne93
Monday 18 September 2023 10:52, United Kingdom
Iran will free a British citizen and four Americans held in the country in exchange for $6bn (£4.8bn) and a prisoner swap.
The funds, once frozen in South Korea, are now 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.
The agreement also includes the release of five unnamed Iranian citizens detained in the United States.
The freed Briton is environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, 67, who has British, American and Iranian citizenship.
He was among dual nationals who were detained at the time negotiations were taking place with the UK government to release former detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said: “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.
They will be transferred to a Tehran airport “soon” before leaving for Qatar, two Iranian officials told Reuters. From there they will fly to the United States, according to the news agency.
One of the officials said that “they are in good health.”
Among the dual US-Iranian nationals released in 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.
The identity of the fourth and fifth prisoners to be released has not been made public.
Two of the Iranian prisoners will remain in the United States, two will fly to Iran and one detainee will be reunited with his family in a third country, an Iranian official said.
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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.
His daughter Roxanne has been among those who have 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.
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.