Iran says German freed in prisoner swap

Iran said on Monday that Ahmad Khalili, who was arrested in Germany on a US request and subject to extradition to the United States, flew home on Sunday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had been in Germany to attend a security conference in Munich. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 18 February 2020

Iran says German freed in prisoner swap

  • Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals over recent years, mostly on espionage charges
  • Rights activists have accused Iran of arresting a number of dual nationals to try to win concessions from other countries

DUBAI: Iran has freed a German citizen sentenced to three years in jail, the Iranian judiciary said on Tuesday, a day after Tehran said a detained Iranian accused of violating US sanctions had returned home from Germany.

“On Monday, a German citizen returned home. He was arrested while ago and was sentenced to three years in jail for taking pictures from sensitive places,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said in a televised weekly news conference. He did not give further details.

Iran said on Monday that Ahmad Khalili, who was arrested in Germany on a US request and subject to extradition to the United States, flew home on Sunday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had been in Germany to attend a security conference in Munich.

“We insisted that first the Iranian citizen should return home...then the German citizen was allowed to leave Iran on Monday,” he said.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals over recent years, mostly on espionage charges.

Esmaili also said two French academics will appear in the court next month. France has called for the release of French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah and her French colleague Roland Marchal, who had been detained since June.

Iran has rejected France’s call as an interference at Tehran’s state matters.

“We do not recognize dual nationality. She is Iranian. We do not let other states to interfere in our judiciary matters. Their court session will be on March 3,” Esmaili said.

Adelkhah’s lawyer told Reuters last month that Iran had dropped spying charges against Adelkhah but she faced other security-related charges.

The issue has complicated ties between Tehran and Paris, both parties to a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. Washington exited the deal in 2018 and has reimposed sanctions that has hit Iran’s economy hard.

Rights activists have accused Iran of arresting a number of dual nationals to try to win concessions from other countries — a charge that the Islamic Republic has regularly dismissed.

A Chinese-American detained in Iran in 2016 and later charged with spying was freed in December and an imprisoned Iranian was released by Washington in return.


Egypt, Sudan suspend talks with Ethiopia over disputed dam

Updated 8 min 4 sec ago

Egypt, Sudan suspend talks with Ethiopia over disputed dam

CAIRO: Egypt and Sudan suspended talks with Ethiopia after it proposed linking a deal on its newly constructed reservoir and giant hydroelectric dam to a broader agreement about the Blue Nile waters that would replace a colonial-era accord with Britain.
The African Union-led talks among the three key Nile basin countries are trying to resolve a years-long dispute over Ethiopia’s construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile.
Ethiopia says the dam will provide electricity to millions of its nearly 110 million citizens, while Egypt, with its own booming population of about 100 million, sees the project as an existential threat that could deprive it of its share of the Nile waters. The confluence of the White Nile and the Blue Nile near the Sudanese capital of Khartoum forms the Nile River that flows the length of Egypt.
A colonial-era deal between Ethiopia and Britain effectively prevents upstream countries from taking any action — such as building dams and filling reservoirs — that would reduce the share of Nile’s water which the deal gave downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan. Blue Nile is the source of as much as 85% of the Nile River water.
Sudan’s Irrigation Minster Yasir Abbas said that Ethiopia’s proposal on Tuesday threatened the entire negotiations, which had just resumed through online conferencing Monday.
Sudan and Egypt object to Ethiopia’s filling of the reservoir on the dam without a deal among the three nations. On Monday, the three agreed that technical and legal teams would continue their talks on disputed points, including how much water Ethiopia would release downstream in case of a major drought.
Ethiopia on Tuesday floated a proposal that would leave the operating of the dam to a comprehensive treaty on the Blue Nile, according to Abbas, the Sudanese minister.
“Sudan will not accept that lives of 20 million of its people who live on the banks of the Blue Nile depend on a treaty,” he said. He said Sudan would not take part in talks that link a deal on teh dam to a deal on the Blue Nile.
With the rainy season, which started last month, bringing more water to the Blue Nile, Ethiopia wants to fill the reservoir as soon as possible.
Ethiopia’s irrigation ministry said Wednesday the proposal was “in line” with the outcome of an African Union summit in July and Monday’s meeting of the irrigation ministers. It said the talks are expected to reconvene on Aug. 10, as proposed by Egypt.
Ethiopian Irrigation Minister Seleshi Bekele tweeted Tuesday that his country would like to sign the first filling agreement as soon as possible and “also continue negotiation to finalize a comprehensive agreement in subsequent periods.”
The issue of Ethiopia’s dam also threatens to escalate into a full-blown regional conflict as years of talks with a variety of mediators, including the US, have failed to produce a solution.