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An Examination of Previously Identified Prisoners in the Iran-US Exchange

by Madison Thomas
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Iran and the United States have previously designated eight of the ten prisoners involved in a recent exchange. Here is an overview of their backgrounds:

SIAMAK NAMAZI

Siamak Namazi, an executive in the energy sector, was apprehended in Iran in 2015. His arrest was linked to his advocacy for closer relations between Iran and Western nations.

Both Siamak Namazi and his father, Baquer Namazi, received 10-year sentences in the infamous Evin Prison on charges of espionage, charges that the U.S. and U.N. have criticized as fabricated.

While Baquer Namazi was placed under house arrest in 2018 due to medical reasons, his pleas to leave Iran for heart surgery were denied. He ultimately departed Iran in October 2022.

Siamak Namazi holds the unfortunate distinction of being the longest-detained Iranian-American in Tehran. In 2022, he made a plea to President Joe Biden through an essay in The New York Times, coinciding with American and Iranian nuclear negotiators meeting in Doha, Qatar, urging intervention to bring an end to his ordeal.

EMAD SHARGHI

The espionage charges against Iranian-American businessman Emad Sharghi came to light in early 2021 when an Iranian court announced a 10-year prison sentence for him in absentia.

His family claims that Iran had cleared him of spying allegations in December 2019 after detaining and interrogating him for months. However, Iran states that its security forces apprehended Sharghi at the northwestern border while he attempted to leave the country while out on bail, leading to his re-arrest.

MORAD TAHBAZ

Morad Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist with Iranian roots, was supposed to be released on furlough in March 2022 as part of Iran’s agreement with the United Kingdom to settle a longstanding debt dispute.

This agreement resulted in the release of two high-profile detainees, charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and retired civil engineer Anoosheh Ashoori, who returned to London. However, Tahbaz remained detained in Iran. Reports indicated that he was sent back to prison despite the promise of furlough.

Tahbaz was ensnared in a crackdown on environmental activists during his visit to Iran in January 2018 and subsequently received a 10-year prison sentence.

IRANIAN PRISONERS

Iran, in turn, has identified five prisoners it seeks to have released. They are:

  • Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi: An Iranian charged in 2021 with allegedly failing to register as a foreign agent on Iran’s behalf while lobbying U.S. officials on issues such as nuclear policy.

  • Mehrdad Ansari: An Iranian sentenced to 63 months in prison in 2021 for obtaining equipment with potential military applications, including missiles, electronic warfare, and nuclear weapons.

  • Amin Hasanzadeh: An Iranian and U.S. permanent resident, prosecutors charged him in 2019 with allegedly stealing engineering plans from his employer for transmission to Iran.

  • Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani: An Iranian charged in 2021 for allegedly unlawfully exporting laboratory equipment to Iran.

  • Kambiz Attar Kashani: An Iranian-American sentenced in February to 30 months in prison for the acquisition of “sophisticated, top-tier U.S. electronic equipment and software” through front companies based in the United Arab Emirates.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Exchange of Prisoners

What is the background of Siamak Namazi?

Siamak Namazi is an energy executive who was arrested in Iran in 2015. His arrest was related to his advocacy for closer ties between Iran and Western countries. Both Siamak Namazi and his father, Baquer Namazi, received 10-year prison sentences in Iran on espionage charges that have been criticized by the U.S. and the United Nations as being fabricated. Baquer Namazi was placed under house arrest in 2018 for medical reasons but was not allowed to leave Iran despite the family’s pleas for him to undergo heart surgery. He eventually left Iran in October 2022, whereas Siamak Namazi remains the longest-held Iranian-American detainee in Tehran.

What happened to Emad Sharghi?

Emad Sharghi, an Iranian-American businessman, faced murky espionage charges that became public in early 2021 when an Iranian court announced a 10-year prison sentence for him in absentia. His family claimed that Iran had cleared him of spying allegations in December 2019 after detaining and interrogating him for months. However, Iran stated that its security forces caught Sharghi at the northwestern border while he was attempting to leave the country while out on bail, leading to his re-arrest.

Why was Morad Tahbaz not released despite an agreement?

Morad Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent, was meant to be released from prison on furlough as part of Iran’s agreement with the United Kingdom to resolve a debt dispute in March 2022. This agreement resulted in the release of two high-profile detainees, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori. However, Tahbaz remained detained in Iran, and reports indicated that he was sent back to prison despite the promise of furlough. He had been caught in a dragnet targeting environmental activists during his visit to Iran in January 2018 and received a 10-year prison sentence.

Who are the Iranian prisoners that Iran seeks to have released?

Iran has identified five prisoners it seeks to have released:

  1. Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi: An Iranian charged in 2021 with allegedly failing to register as a foreign agent on Iran’s behalf while lobbying U.S. officials on issues like nuclear policy.

  • Mehrdad Ansari: An Iranian sentenced to 63 months in prison in 2021 for obtaining equipment that could be used in missiles, electronic warfare, nuclear weapons, and other military gear.

  • Amin Hasanzadeh: An Iranian and permanent resident of the United States whom prosecutors charged in 2019 with allegedly stealing engineering plans from his employer to send to Iran.

  • Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani: An Iranian charged in 2021 over allegedly unlawfully exporting laboratory equipment to Iran.

  • Kambiz Attar Kashani: An Iranian-American sentenced in February to 30 months in prison for purchasing “sophisticated, top-tier U.S. electronic equipment and software” through front companies in the United Arab Emirates.

  • More about Exchange of Prisoners

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    Madison Thomas is a food journalist who covers the latest news and trends in the world of cuisine. She enjoys exploring new recipes and culinary trends, and she is always on the lookout for new and exciting flavors to try.

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