Iran will free prisoners with Western ties in Iran in exchange for billions of dollars from the United States and the United Kingdom, state television reported Sunday. The U.S. and the U.K. did not immediately acknowledge any swap.
The state TV report quoted an anonymous official just as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei began giving what authorities earlier described as an “important” speech. However, Khamenei did not immediately discuss any proposed swap amid negotiations in Vienna over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
The official quoted by Iranian state TV said a deal made between the U.S. and Tehran involved a prisoner swap in exchange for the release of $7 billion in frozen Iranian funds.
“The Americans accepted to pay $7 billion and swap four Iranians who were active in bypassing sanctions for four American spies who have served part of their sentences,” state TV said, quoting the official in an on-screen crawl.
Tehran holds four known Americans now in prison. They include Baquer and Siamak Namazi, environmentalist Morad Tahbaz and Iranian-American businessman Emad Shargi. The state TV report did not immediately name the Iranians that Tehran hoped to get the in swap.
State TV also quoted the official as saying a deal had been reached for the United Kingdom to pay 400 million pounds to see the release of British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Last week, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to an additional year in prison, her lawyer said, on charges of spreading “propaganda against the system” for participating in a protest in front of the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009.
That came after she completed a five-year prison sentence in the Islamic Republic after being convicted of plotting the overthrow of Iran’s government, a charge that she, her supporters and rights groups deny.
While employed at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, she was taken into custody at the Tehran airport in April 2016 as she was returning home to Britain after visiting family.