Iran says hopes prisoner swap with US will go ahead Monday

Iran hopes that a prisoner swap with the United States will go ahead Monday, once Tehran gains access to $6 billion frozen by US ally South Korea, the Iranian foreign ministry said.

Under the deal, which Washington and Tehran have previously confirmed, Iran would release five US citizens from detention and, Iran said, the United States would release five Iranians.

The arch foes also agreed to release the $6 billion long frozen by South Korea due to US sanctions, to be transferred to an account in Qatar for humanitarian purchases.

“We hope to have total access to the Iranian assets today,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani told a Tehran press conference.

“The prisoner exchange will take place on the same day and five Iranian citizens imprisoned in America will be released.”

The exchange was brokered through Gulf states because Iran and the United States do not maintain diplomatic relations.

The five Americans — all considered Iranian nationals by Tehran, which rejects dual nationality — were released to house arrest when the deal was agreed last month.

Among them is Siamak Namazi, a businessman arrested in 2015 on spying charges his family has rejected.

The others are wildlife conservationist Morad Tahbaz, venture capitalist Emad Sharqi, and two others who wished to remain anonymous.

Last week, the official IRNA news agency identified the five Iranian prisoners.

They include Reza Sarhangpour and Kambiz Attar Kashani, both accused of having violated US sanctions against Tehran.

A third prisoner, Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, was detained at his home near Boston in 2021 and charged with being an Iranian government agent, according to US officials.

Two others, Mehrdad Moein Ansari and Amin Hasanzadeh, included in the deal were said to have links to Iranian security forces.

Out of the five Iranians to be released, two will return to Iran while two others will remain in the United States, upon their request, said Kanani.

A fifth Iranian prisoner will travel to a third country, he added.

Monday’s announcement came after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi headed to the United States late Sunday to attend the UN General Assembly in New York.