Trump Secures Release of American Student Held In Iran

08 Décembre, 2019, 06:39 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed on Saturday that US citizen Xiyue Wang, who had been detained in Iran on spying charges for three years, was released by Tehran. Iran claimed that Princeton "sent" Wang to "infiltrate" the country in connection with American intelligence agencies.

Brian Hook, the USA special representative for Iran, accompanied the Iranian scientist Soleimani to Switzerland to make the exchange and will return with Wang, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity as the information had yet to be released.

The swap, however, had clear limits.

"The highest priority of the United States is the safety and well-being of its citizens", Trump said. Meanwhile, Western detainees from the USA and elsewhere remain held by Tehran.

Iran freed an American held prisoner for the past three years, the White House said Saturday, while Iran said the USA was freeing an Iranian scientist held in America in return.

THIS photo released by the Iranian foreign minister's official Twitter account on Saturday shows Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shaking hands with Iranian scientist Massoud Soleimani near a plane at an undisclosed location.

"We thank the Swiss government for facilitating the return of Mr. Wang, and are pleased the Iranian government has been constructive in this manner", he wrote.

The University itself had also taken an active role in advocating for Wang's release. "But we have our hostage back".

Switzerland represents USA diplomatic interests in Iran, since Washington and Tehran cut diplomatic ties shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

A U.S. official told the Associated Press that the swap took place in Zurich, and that Wang is headed to Landstuhl, Germany, where he will be examined by doctors before returning to the US.

The official said Wang was expected to stay in Germany for several days.

'We are thankful to everyone who helped make this happen'. US officials have repeatedly denied the Princeton graduate student had any intelligence ties and said he was arrested on "fabricated national-security related charges". "They are afraid of our knowledge".

He was accused of espionage, and was locked up for 10 years in Tehran's Evin prison.

Xiyue Wang was detained in Iran on August 7, 2016, while conducting research for his work in the University history department.

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In this May 9, 2018 file photo, Hua Qu, the wife of detained Chinese-American Xiyue Wang, poses for a photograph with a portrait of her family in Princeton, N.J.

Negotiations between Iran and the United States, which do not have diplomatic relations, were mediated by the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.

Arriving in Tehran, Soleimani, a stem cell expert, told reporters the Americans who had held him were "petty". He and his lawyers maintained his innocence, saying he seized on a former student's plans to travel from the U.S.to Iran in September 2016 as a chance to get recombinant proteins used in his research for a fraction of the price he'd pay at home. The 49-year-old Iranian professor and biomedical researcher at Tehran's Tarbiat Modares University, who was traveling to the U.S. with a visa issued upon an invitation by a USA research center, was detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation upon arrival. Speaking in Tehran on Saturday night, Zarif referred to Wang as a "spy" who received his release due to "Islamic mercy".

Relations between the United States and Iran reached a new low this week with further sanctions slapped on Tehran. Iran has accused the US without evidence of being behind the mid-November protests over gasoline prices.

The demonstrations and the crackdown reportedly killed at least 208 people, though Iran has refused to release nationwide statistics over the unrest.

Meanwhile, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ruled out direct talks between the nations.

Zarif said earlier the prisoner swap was imminent.

Mr Wang was arrested in Iran in August 2016 as he was leaving the country.

There had been signs a swap could be coming.

Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese businessman resident in the United States who was freed in June after four years in prison in Iran, told Reuters he was the first to know of the release and had informed Wang's mother and wife.

Mr Soleimani was also flown to Zurich and then on to Iran. Wang had been in Iranian custody since 2016 and was serving a ten-year term on espionage charges, while Soleimani was arrested in Chicago previous year for sanctions violations and was awaiting trial.

Earlier this year Hua Qu said her husband's imprisonment in Iran has affected the entire family.

Several dozen Iranians are being held in USA prisons, many of them for breaking sanctions.

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