Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said funds frozen in South Korea would be in Iran’s possession on Monday, triggering the exchange of five US citizens detained in Iran for five detained Iranians in the USA.
Under the terms of this carefully orchestrated agreement, the five Americans, with dual nationality, including one of British nationality, are expected to leave Tehran and head to Qatar.
When it is confirmed that the money was transferred from South Korea to Switzerland and then to Qatar, it will trigger the release of the prisoners, reports NBC News.
Businessman Emad Shargi (left) and British-born environmentalist Morad Tahbaz are two of the US citizens transferred from prison to house arrest ahead of a possible deal.
The transfer of Iranian funds has drawn criticism from Republicans who say President Joe Biden, a Democrat, is effectively paying a ransom for U.S. citizens. The White House defended the deal.
The agreement, first made public on August 10, will remove a major irritant between Washington and Tehran, even though the two sides remain deeply at odds over issues ranging from Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its influence in the region to American sanctions and the American military presence in the country. the gulf.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Monday it was working with all parties on the deal “to ensure all procedures go smoothly so that the issue is resolved once and for all.”
The money has been held in Industrial Bank of Korea and Woori Bank since 2019, when a waiver of sanctions on oil imports expired.
Among the dual US citizens who will be released are Siamak Namazi, 51, and Emad Sharqi, 59, both businessmen, as well as Morad Tahbaz, 67, an environmentalist who also has British citizenship. They were released from prison and placed under house arrest last month.
Namazi, an oil executive, was arrested in 2015 and then sentenced to 10 years in prison for “collaboration with a hostile government” due to his ties to the United States.
Sharqi was arrested for an undisclosed reason in 2018, released and then arrested again in 2020. Shortly after his second arrest, Sharqi was sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage.
View of the entrance to Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran, where the Americans were held
Republicans condemned the Biden administration for paying ransom to Americans
Meanwhile, Tahbaz was sentenced to 10 years in prison on similar charges in 2018.
A fourth US citizen was also placed under house arrest, while a fifth was already under house arrest. Their identities have not been revealed.
Iranian officials named the five Iranians who will be released by the United States: Mehrdad Moin-Ansari, Kambiz Attar-Kashani, Reza Sarhangpour-Kafrani, Amin Hassanzadeh and Kaveh Afrasiabi.
Moin-Ansari and Kashani are serving federal prison sentences while others are on supervised release ahead of trial.
Two Iranian officials said Afrasiabi would remain in the United States.
In a first step towards this agreement, Washington lifted sanctions to allow the transfer of $6 billion in Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar. The funds had been blocked in South Korea, normally one of Iran’s biggest oil customers, due to US sanctions.
Under the deal, Doha agreed to monitor how Iran spends the funds to ensure they go toward non-sanctioned humanitarian goods, such as food and medicine.
Relations between Washington and Tehran have been in turmoil since Donald Trump, a Republican, withdrew the United States from a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers while he was president in 2018. The conclusion of a New nuclear deal has since gained little traction, as Biden prepares for the 2024 US elections.