Iran has released five American prisoners as part of a two way prisoner exchange and a release of frozen Iranian funds, moving the captives to Tehran’s airport for a flight to the Qatari capital, Doha.
The release of the prisoners is presumed to indicate that the transfer of $6bn (£4.8bn) in Iranian funds, earned from selling oil to South Korea, to banks in Doha has now been been completed.
Four of the five were moved to house arrest last month as part of the deal. The fifth prisoner had been moved to house arrest earlier.
Five Iranian prisoners are expected to be released by the US as part of the deal:
Kaveh Afrasiabi, a political scientist and US resident who was charged with being an unregistered agent for the Iranian government.
Mehrdad Moein Ansari, a 40-year-old Iranian resident of the United Arab Emirates and Germany who was convicted of violating sanctions on Iran.
Amin Hassanzadeh, a permanent US resident accused four years ago of stealing secrets to send to Iran.
Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, a 46-year-old who is also a Canadian national charged with illegally exporting laboratory equipment to Iran.
Kambiz Attar Kashani, a 44-year-old dual national convicted of conspiring to illegally export technologies and goods to Iran.
Only two of the Iranian prisoners will return to Iran, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said.
“We hold no value for the limitations that the European Union has imposed,” Kanani said.
In recent days we’ve seen news of the prisoner swap elicit mixed reactions from US lawmakers, with many Republicans harshly condemning the Biden administration over the deal.
One Republican – Utah senator and former presidential hopeful Mitt Romney – said the deal was a “horrible idea” that would lead to “more kidnappings”.
“That’s why you don’t negotiate with terrorists,” he was quoted as saying by The Hill. “That’s why you don’t negotiate with kidnappers”.
Similar statements have come in from several of the current candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, including Tim Scott, Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump, who alleged – without any evidence – that Joe Biden was receiving “kickbacks” from the deal.
While the White House and State Department have both defended the swap, reaction from Democrats has been considerably more muted.
Speaking to reporters last week, New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, acknowledged that there were “concerns” about the deal, although he did not criticise it.
Senator Mark Warner, the chair of the Senate intelligence committee, said in an interview with CBS on Sunday that he hadn’t been briefed and that he hoped the Biden administration would provide more details on the “guardrails” put in place to govern how Iran used the money released as part of the deal.
Source: Al Jazeera, BBC, VOA.