Iran is ‘ready’ to swap more prisoners with US

Iranian doctor based in Florida Majid Taheri, left, is welcomed by an Iranian Foreign Ministry official as his wife stands at right, upon arrival at Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport from the U.S. after being part of a swap that saw a U.S. Navy veteran held by Iran return to America, Monday, June 8, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 08 June 2020

Iran is ‘ready’ to swap more prisoners with US

  • Iranian scientist Majid Taheri returned home Monday after his release from jail in the United States as part of a prisoner exchange
  • The scientist was freed on Thursday as Iran released US Navy veteran Michael White

Iran was ready to swap “other prisoners” with the United States, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.

The statement came as the two countries exchanged prisoners this week. Iranian scientist Majid Taheri returned home Monday after his release from jail in the United States as part of a prisoner exchange, semi-official news agency ISNA reported. The scientist, who had been detained in the United States for 16 months, was freed on Thursday as Iran released US Navy veteran Michael White.

“If the possibility of exchanging prisoners exists, we have the readiness to free the rest of the individuals who are imprisoned and return them to the country,” Mousavi was cited by state news agency IRNA reported.

Taheri was greeted at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport by deputy foreign minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari, said ISNA, which published a picture of the pair speaking to reporters.
“I hope to see the release of (other Iranians imprisoned abroad) in the near future,” Ansari said, adding his ministry would do its best to achieve this.
Taheri for his part thanked Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“I thank the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and dear officials, including Mr. Zarif, who worked hard, and other officials who took months to help release me, as an Iranian physician accused of circumventing US sanctions on medicine,” he was quoted as saying.
Taheri was the second scientist to have returned to Iran from the United States in the past week, after Cyrus Asgari flew home on Wednesday.
A US federal judge issued an order to free Taheri — an Iranian-American who had been working at clinic in Tampa, Florida — on time served.
Taheri had been accused of violating US sanctions by sending a technical item to Iran and in December pleaded guilty to charges he violated financial reporting requirements by depositing $277,344 at a bank, repeatedly showing up with loose cash, according to court documents.
On Monday he rejected accusations against him as “unfair and false,” according to Iran’s Fars news agency.
“I was helping the University of Tehran to develop a cancer vaccine, especially for women,” he was quoted as saying.

Thanking the Swiss Embassy in Tehran for its role in the recent swap, Mousavi noted, “If the Swiss government continues to cooperate, we are ready to repatriate the rest of the Iranians who are in US custody,” according to Radio Farda

Since Washington severed its diplomatic relations with Tehran in 1979, the Swiss Embassy in Iran has been in charge of protecting US interests in the Islamic Republic.
Iran-US tensions have soared in recent years as President Donald Trump has pursued a campaign of “maximum pressure” against America’s sworn arch enemy.
Since unilaterally withdrawing the US from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, Trump has hit the Islamic republic with sweeping sanctions.
The two sides appeared to come to the brink of a direct conflict for the second time in less than a year in January, when Trump ordered an air strike that killed one of Iran’s top generals, Qasem Soliemani.


Sri Lanka prison riot over coronavirus leaves 6 dead

Updated 30 November 2020

Sri Lanka prison riot over coronavirus leaves 6 dead

  • Inmates have staged protests in recent weeks at several prisons as the number of coronavirus cases surges in the facilities

COLOMBO: Inmates unhappy about the coronavirus threat at an overcrowded prison near Sri Lanka’s capital have clashed with guards who opened fire, leaving six prisoners dead and 35 others injured, officials said Monday. Two guards were critically injured, they said.
Pandemic-related unrest has been growing in the country’s prisons. Inmates have staged protests in recent weeks at several prisons as the number of coronavirus cases surges in the facilities.
More than a thousand inmates in five prisons have tested positive for the coronavirus and at least two have died. About 50 prison guards have also tested positive.
Senaka Perera, a lawyer with the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners, said the inmates at Mahara prison near Colombo had been frustrated because their pleas for coronavirus testing and separation of infected prisoners had been ignored by officials for more than a month.
Sri Lanka has experienced an upsurge in coronavirus cases since last month when two clusters – one centered at a garment factory and other at a fish market – emerged in Colombo and its suburbs.
Confirmed cases from the two clusters have reached 19,449. Sri Lanka has reported a total number of 22,988 coronavirus cases, including 109 fatalities.