Washington Post Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian and three other detained Americans were released by Iran on Saturday.
In exchange, the United States released seven detained Iranians. The exchange comes ahead of the implementation of the historic nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran.
Jason Rezaian, 39, was first arrested in Iran in 2014 and was convicted of espionage last year.
The seven individuals being released by the U.S. in exchange are all non-violent offenders charged with violating sanctions against Iran.
“Based on an approval of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and the overall interests of the Islamic Republic, four Iranian prisoners with dual-nationality were freed today within the framework of a prisoner swap deal,” the office of Tehran prosecutor said in a statement.
American officials were much more reserved about the deal and disclosed few details.
“[The deal is a] one-time arrangement because it was an opportunity to bring Americans home,” said an American official speaking in Vienna at final talks that could impose further restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting more sanctions.
The Americans will be flown out of Tehran on a Swiss flight and will stop in Germany for a medical check-up.
“Iranians wanted a goodwill gesture,” said another American official in Vienna. “our citizens have not yet been flown out of Iran, and we do not want to do anything that would complicate it.”
As the day of implementation for the Iran nuclear treaty approaches, Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting in Vienna with the Iranian Foreign Minister to hammer out final details, this exchange being one of them.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to release a report on the status of the Iran nuclear program in advance of the lifting of sanctions.
“All parties have continued making steady progress towards Implementation Day of the JCPOA, which will ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner, referring to the formal title of the deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
[Washington Post] [Farsnews] [Reuters]