Government spokesman Ali Rabiei told Khabaronline news website on Sunday that Iran’s readiness to swap prisoners had already been announced by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“We have declared that there is readiness to exchange all prisoners and discuss their release without any preconditions, but the US has refused to respond,” he said.
Zarif said in December that Tehran was ready for a full prisoner exchange with the United States, tweeting: “The ball is in the US’ court”.
Rabiei held Washington responsible for the safety and health of all Iranian citizens held in US prisoners amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Tehran, he said, is worried about the situation of Iranian inmates who are not looked after properly and are kept in improper conditions.
“We hope that in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, which threatens the lives of Iranian citizens in US prisons, the American government will finally put caring for human lives ahead of politics,” he added.
Asked whether a third party has been assigned to mediate Iran-US talks on prisoners swap, Rabiei said, “The US government has been informed of our reediness and we think that there is no need for a mediator.”
Several Iranians are behind bars in the US, among them Sirous Asgari, a professor of material sciences at Sharif University of Technology, who is held despite being exonerated in a sanctions trial.
He recently contracted COVID-19 due to unsanitary detention conditions and overcrowding at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) jail in Louisiana.
Earlier this week, an Iranian lawmaker said there were no more obstacles in the way of securing Asgari’s release and that he would definitely return home as soon as he recovered from the coronavirus infection.
Meanwhile, three Iranian officials told Reuters that a prisoner swap with the US was in the works.
Michael White, a US navy veteran who has been detained in Iran since 2018 and is currently on medical furlough, is a likely candidate for the prisoners swap, the report said.
Last December, Iran freed US citizen Xiyue Wang, who had been held for three years on spying charges, and the United States released Iranian stem cell scientist Massoud Soleimani.
Soleimani was on a sabbatical when he was arrested by US authorities upon arrival in Chicago a year ago and transferred to a prison in Atlanta, Georgia on charges of violating US sanctions on Iran.