Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi said in a statement on Thursday night that the US has released the Iranian physician Majid Taheri after spending over a year in jail on false charges.
Taheri, said to be a longtime resident of Florida, spent 16 months in prison for allegedly violating US sanctions on Iran.
Mousavi also said that US citizen Michael White, who had been sentenced to prison in Iran for “security crimes” and in a lawsuit brought by “private plaintiffs”, was released after satisfying the plaintiffs in respect to the cause of action while being granted “Islamic mercy for his other crimes.”
“He was released from jail given the time served and in respect of human rights considerations, and left Iran on Thursday,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry official added.
Mousavi said the US Navy veteran, who had been detained in 2018, was on medical furlough in the Swiss Embassy before being allowed to leave Iran.
Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani twitted on Friday that the exchange of prisoners has not been the result of negotiations, and no negotiations will take place in the future.
Trump tweets, Iran responds
US President Donald Trump in a Twitter message thanked Iran for the release of the American citizen, noting, “It shows a deal is possible!" Trump was referring to his offer for negotiating a new deal with Iran following the US pullout from the 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday reacted to the Trump’s message, saying, “We had a deal when you entered office. Iran & other JCPOA participants never left the table”.
“We achieved humanitarian swap *despite* your subordinates' efforts, @realDonaldTrump”, Zarif tweeted.
“Your advisors—most fired by now—made a dumb bet. Up to you to decide *when* you want to fix it”, the Iranian foreign minister added.
The two nations are at odds on a host of issues including the US decision to abandon the nuclear deal and impose economic sanctions on Tehran.
The Swiss Foreign Ministry confirmed it played a role in what it called “the humanitarian gesture” on White and Taheri and said it “stands ready” to help further.
The negotiations to get White released followed several months of discussions with Iran, said a person familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Taheri’s lawyer said on Thursday Taheri would visit family in Iran and seek medical treatment before returning to the United States.
US-Iranian relations have been bitter since the Islamic Revolution toppled the US-backed Shah of Iran in 1979.
Tensions flared after Trump pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions, and worsened after a Jan. 3 US drone strike in Iraq which assassinated Iranian Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ Quds Force.
Both nations have called for the release of prisoners due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Iran is one of the worst-hit countries in West Asia, while the United States has reported the world’s highest number of deaths and infections.
The exchange of prisoners came days after Iranian scientist Sirous Asgari, a professor of material sciences at Iran’s Sharif University of Technology, returned home after spending about three years in detention in the US.
Last December, Iran freed US citizen Xiyue Wang, who had been held for three years on spying charges, and the US released Iranian stem cell scientist Massoud Soleimani.
Soleimani was on a sabbatical when he was arrested by US authorities upon arrival in Chicago a year ago and transferred to a prison in Atlanta, Georgia, on charges of violating US sanctions on Iran.
Reuters and Press TV contributed to this story.