President Trump secured the freedom for an American jailed in Iran.
Xiyue Wang was a 37-year old graduate student at Princeton doing research in Iran in 2016 when he was jailed for spying. The U.S. denied those charges.
By May 2017, he was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison and sent to Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison used for political prisoners.
Just days ago, Wang was flown in a Swiss government airplane from Tehran to Zurich. He was met by Brian H. Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran.
Wang was traded in a prisoner exchange for Masoud Soleimani, an Iranian scientist who was arrested at a Chicago airport last year and was convicted on charges of violating American trade sanctions against Iran.
The charges against Soleimani were dropped by the Justice Department.
The New York Times reports, “American officials said that Mr. Soleimani’s release was a low price to pay for Mr. Wang’s freedom because Mr. Soleimani was expected to be released from prison as early as next month under a plea agreement.”
Taken during the Obama Administration (despite $150 Billion gift), returned during the Trump Administration. Thank you to Iran on a very fair negotiation. See, we can make a deal together! https://t.co/rZaY9p8xzV
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2019
For his part, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tehran was “fully ready” for a full prisoner exchange with the U.S., prompting political analysts to wonder if the move signified a thawing in relations between Iran and the U.S.
After getting our hostage back this week, fully ready for comprehensive prisoner exchange.
The ball is in the US’ court.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) December 9, 2019
Iran is still holding a number of American citizens, also falsely arrested as spies. These citizens include Baquer Namazi, 81, and his son Siamak, 45, who were sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison each for “collaborating with an enemy state [the U.S.],” charges that were never detailed.
Siamak was arrested just a short time after the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was concluded. His father, a retired official with the United Nations, was arrested in February while visiting his son in jail.
Ironically, Siamak, a businessman, was connected to the National Iranian American Council, a pro-Iranian lobby group in Washington, D.C. He spoke out against U.S. sanctions on Iran and advocated for closer business ties between the countries. He was arrested in October of 2015 while visiting relatives in Iran.
As pointed by The Wall Street Journal, the payment by the Obama administration to Iran of $1.7 billion in cash received on the day a number of U.S. hostages were released “has created an incentive for them to imprison more Americans to trade for some future concession.”
Even considering the fact that Siamak was promoting the Iranian regime, the Journal continued, “the mullahs put their need for U.S. hostages above gratitude for such political assistance. Revolutions tend to devour their foreign sympathizers.”
The Namazis are held separately in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, where their health is said to be significantly deteriorating.
Other Americans being held by Iran include:
- Karan Vafadari, an American-Iranian dual national who owns an art gallery in Iran.
- Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent and CIA contractor, who went missing while on a trip to Iran’s Kish Island in the Persian Gulf in 2007. Pictures of Levinson taken in 2011 were broadcast on Fox News in 2013. They showed a haggard Levinson with unkempt graying hair and beard in chains and wearing an orange jumpsuit.
- Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese citizen and a permanent resident of the United States who is an information technology expert was arrested while atending a professional conference in Iran. Zakka, whose appeal was denied, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of spying.