Iran proposes prisoner swap to United States and other 'Western nations'

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif let one name on the list slip, as he exclaimed he hoped to be given "good news soon" regarding the release of Iranian scientist Mosoud Solemani.

A prison guard stands along a corridor in Tehran's Evin prison June 13, 2006.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
A prison guard stands along a corridor in Tehran's Evin prison June 13, 2006.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Iranian Foreign Ministry announced Monday that they have sent a proposed list of names to the United States and other "Western nations," demanding prisoner swaps for detained Iranian citizens currently being held within these foreign countries, according to the Associated Press.
Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi did not detail the names of the Iranian detainees he hopes to be released in foreign countries, however, he made clear that these citizens "should be released" over what Iran believes are "baseless" claims of circumventing current US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif let one name on the list slip though, as he exclaimed he hoped to be given "good news soon" regarding the release of Iranian scientist Mosoud Solemani.
Soleimani was arrested last year for attempting to smuggle "biological material" into Iran.
Several Iranian dual nationals from the United States, Britain, Canada and France have been arbitrarily detained in the past few years and are being kept behind bars on charges including espionage and collaborating with hostile governments.
One of the more prolific cases being British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been held in Iran since 2016 without help from British authorities due to strict judiciary laws and Iran's view on dual nationality.
British authorities have worked tirelessly to grant her diplomatic assistance, however, in June Mousavi made it clear that Iran does not respect dual nationality and will not allow assistance from foreign governments in cases where Iranians are arrested in Iran.
"Mrs Zaghari is an Iranian. She has been convicted on security charges and is spending her sentence in prison," Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Mousavi, was quoted as saying by the state media. "Iran does not recognize dual nationality."
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter after a family visit.
She was sentenced after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran's clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that operates independently of Thomson Reuters and Reuters News.
Another related case, Dr. Ahmad Reza Jalali, an Iranian-Swedish dual national scientist who has been held in Iranian custody since 2016 on charges of espionage, claimed earlier this year that security officials pressure detainees into admitting to new allegations via a broadcasted "forced confessions," according to a Radio Farda report.
Jalali was arrested while on an pedagogical tour organized by Tehran University in April of 2016. He was shown on state-run television confessing to charges of "collaboration with a hostile government," in particular providing intelligence to the Israeli Mossad about the Iranian military and their nuclear scientists - two of which were assassinated in 2010.
Earlier in May, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) intensified its warning to both British and British-Iranian dual nationals on traveling to Iran, advising both parties to avoid it at all costs.
"There is a risk that British nationals, and a higher risk that British/Iranian dual nationals, could be arbitrarily detained in Iran. All British nationals should consider carefully the risks of traveling to Iran. The Iranian authorities don’t recognize dual nationality for Iranian citizens and therefore don’t grant consular access for FCO officials to visit them in detention.
The strict warning came a few days after an Iranian British Council Member Aras Amri was reportedly sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly spying on Iran for the British government. She herself was arbitrarily detained in Iran earlier in 2018 while on a family visit.
"Dual nationals face an intolerable risk of mistreatment if they visit Iran," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in the statement.
Hunt also said he needed to caution Iranian nationals living in Britain, who returned to Iran to visit family, that they might be perceived to have personal links to British government institutions.
Iranian security services might be suspicious of other people with British connections, including those linked to institutions based in the UK, Britain's Foreign Ministry said.
"Despite the UK providing repeated opportunities to resolve this issue, the Iranian regime’s conduct has worsened. Having exhausted all other options, I must now advise all British-Iranian dual nationals against traveling to Iran."
The instructions advise British citizens not to come within within 100 kilometers from the borders of Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran.
"If you’re a British-Iranian dual national and are subsequently detained in Iran, the FCO’s ability to provide consular support is extremely limited," read the updated advisory warning on the FCO's website.
Reuters contributed to this report.