Iran releases 4 prisoners ahead of U.S. deal: State TV

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian state television announced Saturday that the government had freed four dual-nationality prisoners, and a person close to Iran's judiciary confirmed to The Associated Press that Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was one of them.

See Full Article

The announcement of the exchange came as the International Atomic Energy Agency was close to certifying that Iran had met all commitments under the landmark nuclear deal with six world powers. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting in Vienna with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other officials involved in the accord, and it was expected that such certification could come Saturday.

The official report did not identify the prisoners, and U.S. officials would not immediately confirm the announcement. But they had indicated a prisoner deal would be separate from Saturday's expected "implementation" of the nuclear pact.

The person in Iran, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said three of them were Rezaian, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, pastor Saeed Abedini.

It was unclear who the fourth was, with competing media reports in Iran identifying the person as Siamak Namazi, the son of a politician from the era of the shah, or Nosratollah Khosravi. The different accounts not be reconciled immediately.

The person in Iran said the four were freed Saturday in exchange for the release of seven Iranians held in U.S. prisons.

The release of the prisoners, along with the expected implementation of the nuclear deal and sanctions relief, caps a week of intense U.S.-Iran diplomacy that took an unexpected turn on Tuesday with the detention by Iran of 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two boats in the Persian Gulf.

They were released in less than 24 hours after Kerry intervened with Zarif in multiple telephone calls that administration officials hailed as a channel of communication opened because of the nuclear negotiations.

Certification by the IAEA would allow Iran to immediately recoup some $100 billion in assets frozen overseas. The benefits of new oil, trade and financial opportunities from suspended sanctions could prove far more valuable for Tehran in the long run.

Kris Coratti, vice-president of communications and spokeswoman for The Post, said that "while we are hopeful, we have not received any official word of Jason's release."

Hekmati's lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, said Hekmati called him earlier Saturday from prison.

"He told me that judiciary officials have called for a meeting with him. But I've not been formally informed if he is free now," he said, adding that negotiations for the prisoners' release has been going on for the past two months.

A report by the semi-official ISNA news agency quoted a statement from the Tehran prosecutor's office as saying the inmates were freed "within the framework of exchanging prisoners." It did not elaborate.

Rezaian was born in California and holds both U.S. and Iranian citizenship. He was convicted in closed proceedings last year after being charged with espionage and related allegations. The Post and the U.S. government have denied the accusations, as has Rezaian. Rezaian was the Post's Tehran correspondent and was accredited to work in the country by the Iranian government.

Hekmati, of Flint, Michigan, was detained in August 2011 on espionage charges. Hekmati went to Iran to visit family and spend time with his ailing grandmother.

Abedini of Boise, Idaho, was detained for compromising national security, presumably because of Christian proselytizing, in September 2012. He was sentenced in 2013 to 8 years in prison.

Namazi is an Iranian-American businessman who advocated better ties between Iran and the U.S.

Separately, Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran in 2007 while working for the CIA on an unapproved intelligence mission. American officials are unsure if the former FBI agent is even still alive. Iranian officials deny knowing where he is. Levinson travelled to Kish island and checked into hotel, purportedly investigating cigarette smuggling. He met U.S. fugitive Dawud Salahuddin, the last man known to see him.

The CIA family paid Levinson's family over $2 million and some staffers lost their jobs over his unauthorized work. A proof of life video surfaced in 2011, saying he was held by a group. His family received photos that year, too, of Levinson bearded, shackled, wearing orange jumpsuit and holding signs in broken English. He has seven children. He suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.

The Obama administration has said the Americans came up in every conversation with the Iranians.

Associated Press writers, Matthew Lee and Donna Cassata in Washington, Adam Schreck in Dubai and George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Softwood lumber decision Tuesday is Trump's next chance to hammer Canada

    Canada News CBC News
    U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stood beside Donald Trump as the U.S. president called Canada's actions against American trade interests "a disgrace." "That also includes what's happening along our northern border states with Canada, having to do with lumber and timber," he said, a vague snark that swivelled heads on both sides of the border. Source
  • Lexin Resources and the dark side of Alberta's downturn

    Canada News CBC News
    It was nearly a year ago when Allan MacRae got a call from a friend and former colleague warning of trouble brewing at a small Alberta natural gas producer. Lexin Resources wasn't on the radar of most Albertans last spring, but it was under scrutiny from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), and some of its own employees had become concerned about safety. Source
  • Beware unintended consequences as governments meddle in real estate: Don Pittis

    Canada News CBC News
    In a science fiction tale by the late Iain Banks, the only way a huge computer can make a truly accurate predictive model is to create a near-perfect simulation, including recreating the realistic lives of all the people involved. Source
  • 'Embarrassment to Canadians': abuse, humiliation occurred at bases across country, soldiers say

    Canada News CBC News
    The alleged abuse of Canadian soldiers at the hands of their own military during training exercises was widespread during the '80s and '90s, according to former military members. After a Go Public investigation into a 1984 training exercise at Canadian Forces Base Wainwright, which was described by some participants as "torture," we were contacted by about a dozen ex soldiers who had similar stories. Source
  • Why banning uniformed police at Pride will actually make the event more inclusive

    Canada News CBC News
    For many white, straight, or cisgender people, it's easy to forget what the uniformed police officers who dance on parade floats do on the other 364 days of the year. For the rest of us, it's impossible. Source
  • Luxury shoe retailer Jimmy Choo is for sale

    World News CBC News
    A Jimmy Choo shoe is seen in a shop in downtown Rome in March 2016 file photo. (Max Rossi/Reuters) British luxury retailer Jimmy Choo is seeking offers for the company as part of a review of its strategic options to maximize shareholder value, it said on Monday. Source
  • Top Afghan officials resign in wake of massacre by Taliban at army base

    World News CBC News
    Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accepted the resignations of his defence minister and army chief of staff on Monday, after more than 140 soldiers were killed last week in the deadliest-ever Taliban attack on a military base, the president's office said. Source
  • New Orleans to take down Confederate monuments

    World News CBC News
    New Orleans planned to begin removing the first of four prominent Confederate monuments early Monday, the latest Southern institution to sever itself from symbols viewed by many as a representation racism and white supremacy. Workers were to begin removing the first memorial, one that commemorates whites who tried to topple a biracial post-Civil War government in New Orleans, overnight in an attempt to avoid disruption from supporters who want the monuments to stay, some of whom city officials…
  • 5 dead, including children, NYC house fire

    World News CBC News
    Investigators are scouring for clues about what sparked a deadly, fast-moving house fire that killed five people, including three children, on a sunny spring afternoon. The fire broke out Sunday afternoon, on a street full of single-family homes in the middle-class neighbourhood of Queens Village, a neighbourhood near Belmont Park. Source
  • 5 dead, including children, in NYC house fire

    World News CBC News
    Investigators are scouring for clues about what sparked a deadly, fast-moving house fire that killed five people, including three children, on a sunny spring afternoon. The fire broke out Sunday afternoon, on a street full of single-family homes in the middle-class neighbourhood of Queens Village, a neighbourhood near Belmont Park. Source