The spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry says a prisoner exchange involving five Iranians and five Americans will take place on September 18 after some $6 billion once frozen in South Korea reached Qatar.
“On the subject of the prisoner swap, it will happen today and five prisoners, citizens of the Islamic Republic, will be released from the prisons in the US,” ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said during a news conference on September 18.
“Five imprisoned citizens who were in Iran will be given to the US side reciprocally, based on their will,” he added.
Western news agencies reported that a Qatari aircraft was on standby in Iran and waiting to fly the five Americans to Doha.
Under the prisoner exchange deal, Iran’s unfrozen funds will be kept in accounts in Qatar and will only be able to be used for humanitarian goods, such as medicine and food, the United States has said.
Iranian officials have identified five individuals in US custody whom Tehran would like handed over as part of the agreement: Mehrdad Ansari, Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, and Kambiz Attar Kashani were charged with illegally obtaining advanced or potential dual-use technology thought to be bound for Iran that has been under tightly reimposed US sanctions since 2018; Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi and Amin Hasanzadeh were imprisoned for failing to register as foreign agents and stealing engineering plans on behalf of Iran, respectively.
The five American prisoners expected to be released include Siamak Namazi, who was detained in 2015 and was later sentenced to 10 years in prison on spying charges; Emad Sharghi, a venture capitalist sentenced to 10 years; and Morad Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent who was arrested in 2018 and also received a 10-year sentence.
The two other prisoners have not been identified.
Western governments have repeatedly accused the Islamic Republic of taking dual and foreign nationals hostage for the sole purpose of using them in prisoner swaps or as a bargaining chip in international negotiations.