'Glitch' delayed departure of American prisoners from Iran

January 17, 2016 17:33
1 minute read.


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The departure of three American prisoners from Tehran, released as part of a swap following the lifting of sanctions on Iran was at least partly delayed by a "temporary misunderstanding" about whether two relatives were on the plane.

There had been expectations that they would leave on Saturday, while the final round of talks on sanctions were taking place. But the Swiss plane carrying Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post's Tehran bureau chief, Saeed Abedini, a pastor from Idaho and Amir Hekmati, a former Marine from Flint, Michigan as well as some of their family members did not leave until Sunday morning.

It had been reported when the plane took off that Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, about whom little is known, was on board. But a senior US official later said he was not traveling with the other released prisoners.

It was not immediately clear whether he opted to stay in Iran or depart separately or whether this uncertainty had in any way contributed to the delay. An earlier State Department statement said "those who wished to depart Iran have left."

A fifth prisoner, American student Matthew Trevithick, left Iran on Saturday under a separate arrangement.

US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters after landing in Washington early on Sunday from talks in Vienna that the delay in the departure of the prisoners was in part due to a "temporary misunderstanding" about whether Rezaian's mother, Mary, and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, also a journalist, were on the plane, as had been agreed. They were later confirmed as being on the plane.

Mary Rezaian was in Tehran pressing for her son's release.

Kerry said he raised the issue with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Vienna during final talks on Iran's compliance under the nuclear deal, a step that was necessary for the lifting of US and other sanctions against Tehran.

"I told Javad (Zarif), look she's on the list and is part of the agreement. He said absolutely, and he assigned four people to it and got onto it immediately," said Kerry. "Before I left last night and got onto the plane, we had complete clarity that she was going to leave, no issue, it just was a glitch. These things happen."

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