Five Iranian Americans detained by the Islamic Republic were allowed to leave Iran on September 18, as part of a prisoner swap that saw the dismissal of US federal charges against five Iranians and the unfreezing of $6 billion in Iranian assets.
The Iranians include Mehrdad Ansari and Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, who landed in Doha from the United States on September 18 and are on their way to Tehran.
The three others are Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, Amin Hasanzadeh and Kambiz Attar Kashani.
Iran's Foreign Ministry earlier said that two had asked to remain in the United States and another one will go to an undisclosed country to join his family.
Here is what we know about them:
Amin Hasanzadeh, a 46-year-old permanent US resident and engineer in Michigan, was charged in 2019 with stealing confidential documents and technical data from his employer. He was accused of sending them to his brother, who is linked to Iran's weapons industry and the military.
Prosecutors also alleged that the engineer served in the Iranian military and worked at a company linked to "the Iranian government's Cruise Division of Air & Space Organization” – information that he concealed on immigration documents.
At the time of the Iran-US prisoner swap agreement, he was awaiting trial and had said he did not plan to return to Iran.
Kambiz Attar Kashani
Kambiz Attar Kashani, an Iranian American dual citizen, was arrested in December 2021 and sentenced to 30 months in prison in February this year by the Brooklyn Federal Court for conspiring to illegally export US goods and technology. He was also fined $50,000.
According to the Justice Department, Kashani provided the Central Bank of Iran, an entity that supports organizations that the United States has designated as terrorist groups, and others with US electronic equipment and software that “enabled the Iranian banking system to operate more efficiently, effectively and securely.”
Kashani used two companies in the United Arab Emirates as a front to acquire goods from several US technology firms.
Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi
Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, a 65-year-old political scientist and author, was arrested in 2021 at his home in Massachusetts on charges of acting as an unregistered agent of the Iranian government, according to the Justice Department.
“For over a decade, Kaveh Afrasiabi pitched himself to Congress, journalists, and the American public as a neutral and objective expert on Iran,” John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said in a statement at the time. “However, all the while, Afrasiabi was actually a secret employee of the Government of Iran and the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations (IMUN) who was being paid to spread their propaganda.”
At the time of the swap agreement, Afrasiabi was awaiting trial and had said he did not wish to return to Iran.
Mehrdad Ansari, a 42-year-old resident of the United Arab Emirates and Germany, received a five-year prison sentence in 2021 for his involvement in a plan to “obtain military sensitive parts” for the Islamic Republic in violation of the Iranian trade embargo.
Court documents indicated that the equipment could have been used to test systems including nuclear weapons, missile guidance and offensive electronic warfare.
Ansari chose to return to Iran after serving time in a federal prison in Louisiana.
Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani
Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani is a 48-year-old Iranian and Canadian national who lived in Montreal. He was indicted by a US grand jury on several counts, including conspiracy, money laundering and violations of US export laws, according to the Justice Department.
He was accused of exporting laboratory equipment to Iran in August 2021 without proper license. The material, which is controlled for nuclear nonproliferation reasons, was exported through Canada and the United Arab Emirates.
At the time of the swap agreement with Iran, Kafrani was awaiting trial.