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Iran says German citizen freed in prisoner swap

Iran FM Zarif & Freed t Ahmad Khalili
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.

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