Middle East

Alleged prisoner exchange: US denies agreement with Iran

The United States has emphatically denied information from Iran about an alleged agreement to exchange detainees. The statements by Iranian officials about an agreement are a "cruel lie".

The US has strongly denied an alleged detainee exchange agreement with Iran. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on state television that his country had negotiated a prisoner exchange agreement with the United States.

“Claims by Iranian officials that we have reached an agreement to release US citizens unlawfully detained by Iran are false,” President Joe Biden’s National Security Council said in a statement.

Ned Price, spokesman for the State Department in Washington, said: “Claims by Iranian officials that a prisoner exchange agreement has been reached are another particularly gruesome lie.”

False claims on state television

Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian claimed during his television appearance that a document between Iran and the United States for a prisoner exchange had been “indirectly signed and approved” since March 2022. If “everything should go well”, the exchange would take place in the next few days.

Amirabdollahian has previously provided information on possible agreements with the United States. Among other things, it was about frozen assets – but the deals never materialized. “Unfortunately, Iranian officials do not shy away from making things up,” the National Security Council noted.

Observers believe it is possible that the false statements could be an attempt by the regime to win back the support of the Iranian people. There have been repeated protests against the country’s theocratic government.

American citizens continue to be detained

US citizens in Iranian detention include businessman Siamak Namazi, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2016 on charges of espionage, businessman Emad Sharghi, who has been in prison since 2018, and environmental activist Morad Tahbaz. All three also have Iranian citizenship and Tahbaz also has British citizenship. State Department spokesman Price said: “We are working tirelessly to secure the release of the three Americans wrongfully imprisoned in Iran.”

Iran has consistently detained foreigners on charges of espionage or other national security violations. The Islamic Republic has also been accused of holding foreigners hostage. The US and Iran have been enemies for decades.

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