“Three of the dual-nationals had been sentenced and jailed for their crimes. One convict was Jason Rezaian, who was arrested on espionage charges. He hadn’t been sentenced yet. Of course, their release had nothing to do with the ongoing nuclear deal at the time,” Mohseni Ejei said in an interview with the state-run TV on Saturday night.
He noted that another person who was in prison on different charges was also freed later.
“The decisions were made by the Supreme National Security Council. Their release was conditional, which the Americans accepted. I cannot reveal the details though,” Mohseni Ejei said.
His remarks came as Commander of Iran’s Basij Volunteer Force Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi had revealed in January that the US agreed to release $1.7 of Iran’s frozen funds in a bid to buy freedom of its spies held by Tehran.
The US agreed to repay Iran a $400 million debt and $1.3 billion in interest dating to the Islamic revolution.
“The annulment of sanctions against Iran’s Bank Sepah and reclaiming of $1.7mln of Iran’s frozen assets after 36 years showed that the US doesn’t understand anything but the language of force,” Naqdi said, addressing Basij forces in Tehran.
“This money was returned for the freedom of the US spy and it was not related to the (nuclear) negotiations,” he added.
4 Iranian-American nationals who were held for various charges in Iran were freed under a prisoners swap deal mid January after implementation of the nuclear deal clinched between Tehran and the world powers in July. A fifth inmate was also released separately.
According to the swap deal, the US also freed 7 Iranian-Americans who were held for sanctions-related charges and asked the Interpol to stop prosecution of 14 other Iranian nationals. But according to what Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said, the number of the Iranians whose charges have been dropped stands at 21.
The 7 Iranian inmates freed by the US were named as Nader Modanlou, Bahram Mechanic, Khosrow Afqahi, Arash Ghahreman, Touraj Faridi, Nima Golestaneh and Ali Sabounchi.
The 14 Iranians who were mentioned in earlier reports and had charges dropped included Saeed Jamili, Jalal Salami, Matin Sadeqi, Alireza Moazzemi Goudarzi, Mohammad Abbas Mohammadi, Kourosh Taherkhani, Sajjad Farhadi, Seyed Ahmad Abtahi, Gholamreza Mahmoudi, Hamid Arabnejad, Ali Moattar, Mohammad Ali She’rbaf, Amin Ravan and Behrouz Dolatzadeh.
Jaberi Ansari did not name the other 7 Iranians whose charges have been dropped.
Some reports earlier this year had spoken of a potential prisoner swap between Iran and US following the Vienna nuclear deal in July.