On Saturday, the New York Times, citing Iranian reports, said that four Americans held by the regime were released as part of a prisoner exchange with the United States.
According to reports, the Americans included pastor Saeed Abedini, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati, Washington Post Tehran correspondent Jason Rezaian and Nosratollah Khosrawi. CNN said that details of Khosrawi’s case were not immediately known.
Iran said that seven Iranians were released, but those individuals were not identified.
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“Based on an approval of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and the general interests of the Islamic Republic, four Iranian prisoners with dual-nationality were freed today within the framework of a prisoner swap deal,” The Iranian FARS news agency said, quoting the office of the Tehran prosecutor. All four have dual Iranian-U.S. citizenship.
And the timing of this is somewhat curious. The Times added:
The exchange was apparently orchestrated to coincide with the expected announcement of the lifting of nuclear sanctions against Iran, the most important phase of the nuclear deal reached with world powers in July.
The incarceration of the Iranian-Americans had become an increasingly bitter side issue.
The AP noted:
BREAKING: VIENNA (AP) — US official: Freed American prisoners to be flown to Switzerland from Iran by Swiss plane.
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) January 16, 2016
And U.S. officials have reportedly confirmed the release:
BREAKING: U.S. officials confirm to CNN that Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Nosratollah Khosrawi are being released today.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) January 16, 2016
— Matt Lee (@APDiploWriter) January 16, 2016
GOP presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz responded:
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