As Washington and Tehran implemented a prisoner exchange Monday, new details emerged about the uncertain statuses of three of the five Iranians who were granted clemency by Washington and remained on U.S. soil.
VOA has learned that of the three Iranians remaining in the United States, a U.S. Justice Department website showed Kambiz Attar Kashani was released from a federal prison in Michigan on Monday with no comment from his lawyer on his future plans; court records showed Amin Hasanzadeh lost his U.S. permanent residency on August 23; and Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi received a presidential pardon, but federal prosecutors asked a judge to only dismiss the charges against him temporarily.
The other two Iranians granted clemency by the U.S., Mehrdad Ansari and Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, arrived in Tehran late Monday after being flown to Qatar earlier in the day.
A VOA inspection of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmate locator website on Tuesday showed Kashani, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, was released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan, Michigan, the previous day. The website, which appears to be updated daily, had shown on Monday that Kashani was still at the prison.
Kashani had been sentenced to 30 months in prison for conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. He was freed about five months before his originally scheduled release date of February 2024.
Kashani's lawyer Babak Hoghooghi-Esfahani did not immediately respond to a VOA message sent earlier Tuesday requesting comment on Kashani's future plans.
A court document seen by VOA showed that Hasanzadeh, who has been on supervised release at his home pending trial on charges of violating U.S. sanctions, lost his permanent residency when it expired on August 23. There was no word on when he would be released from court-ordered restrictions on his movements.
A letter written to a judge in Michigan on August 23 by Hasanzadeh's attorneys said the expiry 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.
In a Monday court filing seen by VOA, Afrasiabi's attorney Sabrina Shroff asked a judge to cancel his January trial date 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 bail payments be refunded to him.
A subsequent filing Tuesday by the federal prosecutors in Afrasiabi’s case, seen by VOA, asked the judge to grant his lawyer’s requests for legal relief. 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 him “without prejudice.”
The judge approved the government’s motion in another filing seen by VOA later Tuesday, meaning Afrasiabi’s case was terminated. But the dismissal of the case “without prejudice” meant that the prosecutors retained a right to charge Afrasiabi again in future under the unspecified conditions.
Afrasiabi, a U.S. permanent resident, had been awaiting trial since being charged by a New York federal court in 2021 for allegedly acting as an unregistered agent of Iran's government.
Jason Brodsky, policy director of U.S. advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, wrote on the social media platform X earlier Monday that granting Afrasiabi clemency raises the question of what future activities he would engage in while remaining in the U.S.
Here is a look at the five American citizens released Monday as part of the prisoner swap between the United States and Iran:
Siamak Namazi, 51, was the longest held Iranian American detainee. He was arrested in 2015 and sentenced the following year to 10 years in Tehran's Evin Prison on charges of espionage. Months later, his father was arrested when he visited Iran to check on his son. The elder Namazi was later placed on house arrest and permitted to leave Iran in 2022 due to medical reasons. Namazi is an energy executive who promoted closer ties between the West and Iran.
Emad Sharghi, 59, is an Iranian American venture capitalist who moved to Iran with his wife in 2017. He was detained the following year, but his family says he was released after going through eight months of interrogations. Authorities rearrested Sharghi as he was trying to leave the country while on bail. He was charged with espionage and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Morad Tahbaz, 67, was also sentenced to 10 years of prison. He is an Iranian American conservationist who also holds British citizenship. In 2018, he was arrested during an Iranian crackdown on environmental activists. Tahbaz had reportedly remained in prison despite an agreement between the United Kingdom and Iran that he be released from prison on furlough.
Two additional prisoners were released Monday. They wished, however, to remain anonymous.