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US Puts Conditions on Clemencies for 3 Iranians Staying in US After Prisoner Swap


FILE — Amin Hasanzadeh, in a screenshot from social media; Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, courtesy of VOA; and Kambiz Attar Kashani, in a screenshot from social media, are seen in this compilation photo created Sept. 19, 2023.
FILE — Amin Hasanzadeh, in a screenshot from social media; Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, courtesy of VOA; and Kambiz Attar Kashani, in a screenshot from social media, are seen in this compilation photo created Sept. 19, 2023.

The United States has put conditions on clemencies granted to three Iranians who were part of this week’s prisoner swap, leaving the door open to potential further legal action against the men, VOA has learned.

Court filings seen by VOA show Kambiz Attar Kashani was released Monday from a federal prison in Michigan after receiving a presidential commutation of his sentence, while Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi and Amin Hasanzadeh received presidential pardons as they awaited trial on federal charges. The clemency letters for the three men, signed by President Joe Biden on September 14, had similar conditions attached.

The other two Iranians granted clemency by the U.S. under the deal, Mehrdad Ansari and Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, arrived in Tehran late Monday after being flown to Qatar earlier in the day.

Kashani, an IT manager who is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, was released from a federal correctional institution in Milan, Michigan, on Monday, according to his Bureau of Prisons inmate locator record, seen by VOA on Tuesday.

Kashani had been detained since his January 2022 arrest and was later sentenced to 30 months in prison. He was convicted of illegally exporting U.S. goods and technology to end users in Iran, including its central bank, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. He was freed five months before his originally scheduled release of February 2024.

Kashani's lawyer, Babak Hoghooghi-Esfahani, did not respond to a VOA message sent Tuesday requesting comment on Kashani's plans.

Afrasiabi, a political commentator and author with U.S. permanent residency, had been awaiting trial since being charged by New York federal prosecutors in January 2021 with allegedly acting as an unregistered agent of Iran.

Court filings showed Afrasiabi's attorney, Sabrina Shroff, asked a judge on Monday to cancel his then-upcoming trial in January due to his criminal case being "resolved [by] the actions of the Executive Branch" of the U.S. government. She also requested that Afrasiabi be released from pretrial supervision of his movements and that his bond payment be refunded to him.

A subsequent Tuesday filing by the federal prosecutors in Afrasiabi's case asked the judge to grant his lawyer's requests. But the prosecutors also wrote that because Afrasiabi's pardon "is conditioned on a number of terms," they were asking the judge to dismiss the charges against Afrasiabi "without prejudice."

The judge approved the government's motion in another filing later Tuesday, meaning Afrasiabi's case was terminated. But the dismissal of charges "without prejudice" means prosecutors can reopen the criminal case against Afrasiabi under certain conditions.

Hasanzadeh, an engineer, had been awaiting trial since being arrested in November 2019 on federal charges, including stealing technical data from a U.S. company and sending it to an Iran-based sibling involved in military research, and fraudulently concealing his own Iranian military affiliation from U.S. immigration authorities who granted him permanent residency in 2013. Hasanzadeh's permanent residency expired on August 23, according to a filing that day by his lawyers.

In a Wednesday filing, the prosecutors in Hasanzadeh's case asked a judge to dismiss the charges against him "without prejudice," mirroring the request made by Afrasiabi's prosecutors. Hasanzadeh’s lawyers responded Thursday by filing their own request for the judge to dismiss the case “with prejudice,” meaning permanently. The attorneys cited Hasanzadeh's previous motions seeking a permanent dismissal because of his ongoing wait for a trial date and the government’s alleged violation of his right to a speedy trial.

The judge ruled Sept. 25 in favor of the federal prosecutors and dismissed Hassanzadeh's charges "without prejudice," noting that he "must follow the four conditions set forth in the pardon."

Biden's commutation for Kashani and pardons for Afrasiabi and Hasanzadeh had identical conditions for the three men. They include not committing any additional crime against the U.S. or violation of U.S. laws; waiving and releasing "any and all claims, demands, rights, and causes of action of whatsoever kind and nature against the U.S., its agents, servants and employees," and not accepting or receiving "any financial benefit, directly or indirectly, in any manner or amount, from any book, movie, or other publication or production, in any form or media, about [their] situation."

Afrasiabi and Hasanzadeh had one additional condition to their clemencies: waiving "any and all claims to funds already seized as part of the prosecution of offenses subject to this pardon."

Kashani prosecution request and commutation
Afrasiabi pardon

Biden wrote in the clemency letters that if at any time the three men violate one or more of the terms of their clemencies, he or a future president has "complete discretion" to void Kashani's commutation and reimpose the original sentence and to void the pardons of Afrasiabi and Hasanzadeh.

Jason Brodsky, policy director of U.S. advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, told VOA that he believes the conditions placed on the clemencies for the three men “demonstrates the U.S. concern that these individuals may commit the same crimes again.”

Hasanzadeh prosecution request and pardon

Brodsky pointed to an appearance by Afrasiabi on Chinese state TV network CGTN in July. “This raises a question of whether he will continue to serve the interests of the Islamic republic without registering as a foreign agent in the future — especially as he remains on U.S. soil,” Brodsky said. Afrasiabi has denied acting as an agent of Iran.

Hasanzadeh has been on supervised release at his Michigan home since March 2021, before which he was in pretrial detention. In their August 23 court filing, his attorneys said the expiration of his permanent residency will make it "substantially harder" for him to prove his "lawful status for purposes of obtaining employment and certain public benefits." The letter also said it will be "likely impossible for him to return to the U.S. were he to travel internationally."

One of the attorneys, Benton Martin, declined to comment when VOA contacted him Monday to ask about Hasanzadeh's status.

Asked by VOA if Hasanzadeh risks deportation after losing his permanent residency, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan responded Wednesday by referring the question to the Department of Homeland Security. There was no immediate response to a VOA request sent to that department on Thursday.