Iran is not considering a prisoner exchange with the United States, a senior official said on Tuesday, ahead of an expected verdict for an Iranian-American journalist held in Tehran for more than a year.
“The reports on the possible exchange of prisoners are not true and it is not on the table,” Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi was quoted as saying by Iran’s ISNA news agency.
There has been speculation of a prisoner swap between Iran and the United States both before and after last month’s landmark nuclear deal, but both countries have consistently denied that such an agreement is imminent.
Jason Rezaian, Tehran bureau chief for the Washington Post, was arrested in July 2014 and charged with espionage. His last closed-door hearing was held in early August and the Revolutionary Court is expected to issue a verdict shortly.
The other U.S. citizens detained in Iran are Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Robert Levinson, a private investigator, disappeared in Iran in 2007.
Qashqavi said there were sixteen Iranians jailed in the United States for bypassing sanctions, and around 60 prisoners jailed for other crimes.
California-born Rezaian faces charges of collecting confidential information and handing it to hostile governments; writing a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama; and acting against national security. The Washington Post has called the charges “absurd”.
The Obama administration has faced criticism for not securing the Americans’ release as part of the landmark deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Reuters