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7 Dec, 2019 15:44

Iran swaps American scholar tried on espionage charges for its scientist held by US

Iran swaps American scholar tried on espionage charges for its scientist held by US

An Iranian scientist arrested in the US for violating sanctions and an American Princeton scholar held on espionage charges by the Islamic Republic each returned home as part of a prisoner swap between Tehran and Washington.

Both sides rejoiced at the return of their citizens earlier on Saturday, shortly after the news broke. “Glad that Professor Massoud Soleimani and Mr. Xiyue Wang will be joining their families shortly,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted.

The diplomat later posted a photo of him and Soleimani – a stem cell scientist detained in Chicago last year for trying to buy biological material banned under US sanctions – on board an Iranian government jet as they headed back to Iran.

Meanwhile in the US, relatives of Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-American Princeton scholar, also welcomed the news. He’d been kept in Iranian custody since 2016, and was sentenced to a ten-year prison term on espionage charges.

Wang’s release was brokered with the help of the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which represents US interests there. The American mission remains closed since the 1979 crisis, when Iranian students seized the building and held diplomats hostage for over 400 days.