Tehran has temporarily released Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman, after seven years of detention and lifted the travel ban on his father in what could be preparation for a prisoner swap between Iran and the US.
A UN spokesman said on Saturday that Siamak’s father Baquer, 85, had been permitted to leave the country for medical treatment after Secretary-General António Guterres appealed to Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi. The spokesman said Guterres was also pleased to learn Siamak Namazi had also been “released from detention”.
Hojjat Kermani, the family’s lawyer, told the Financial Times that Siamak Namazi was released on Saturday evening for one week “for the time being” following “his repeated requests to be alongside his father”, who needed an operation because of his cardiac problems.
Iran’s move could be considered a goodwill gesture ahead of a broader prisoner swap deal. Such a deal could lead to the unfreezing of Iranian funds held at South Korea’s central bank, a diplomat aware of the negotiations, said. Qatar, the UN and Switzerland have been involved in the negotiations, the diplomat said.
More than $7bn of Iran’s income from oil shipments has been frozen in two South Korean banks due to US sanctions in 2018.
Iranian officials have not yet commented on the new move. But Nournews, a news service affiliated to the Supreme National Security Council, said that “in recent weeks, there have been intensive talks, with the mediation of one of the regional countries, about the simultaneous release of prisoners in Iran and the US.”
Nournews added that “billions” of dollars of Iranian money could be unfrozen.
US officials have previously said that Washington has been indirectly negotiating with Iran in parallel to nuclear talks in a bid to secure the release of four American citizens in Iran as part of a prisoner swap deal. Iran is also seeking the return of a number of Iranians…
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