Ten prisoners were released: five US citizens detained in the Islamic Republic under espionage charges and five Iranians held in the US for allegedly violating Washington’s sanctions regime.
According to Reuters, the five detainees released in Tehran were accompanied by Qatar’s ambassador to Iran to the airport, where they flew out of the country in a Qatari jet.
Iran’s foreign ministry said on Monday that two Iranians freed by Washington would remain in the US, and one would fly to a third country to join his family. The two others are set to return home.
“One of them, as he has family in another country, will be moved to join them in that third country, and apparently, two of our citizens imprisoned in the US have said they wish to remain there due to their history of staying there,” foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani told reporters.
The two released detainees arrived at Doha airport on Monday evening, according to Iranian officials. “Simultaneously, the three other Iranian prisoners who lived in the US have been freed,” Nournews reported.
The prisoner swap got underway after Qatar confirmed that previously frozen Iranian funds worth $6 billion were transferred to Iranian bank accounts in Doha.
Central Bank of Iran (CBI) chief Reza Farzin confirmed on Monday that the Iranian banks that received the unfrozen billions in their Qatari accounts are Keshavarzi, Shahr, Pasargad, Gardeshgari, Karafarin, and Saman. He also revealed that the transfer was conducted by the international agents of two Qatari banks, Ahlibank and Dukhan Bank, through the SWIFT system.
A sanctions waiver provided by Washington earlier this month is reportedly how the Iranian banks were allowed to receive funds via SWIFT.
“This money belongs to the Iranian people, the Iranian government, so the Islamic Republic of Iran will decide what to do with this money … Humanitarian means whatever the Iranian people need, so this money will be budgeted for those needs, and the needs of the Iranian people will be decided and determined by the Iranian government,” President Ebrahim Raisi said last week during a televised interview with NBC News.
Tehran and Washington achieved Monday’s landmark deal after months of Qatari-mediated talks that sought to de-escalate tensions in the Persian Gulf.
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