US pardons 7 Iranians in exchange for 4 prisoners

WASHINGTON DC, USA (4th UPDATE) – The United States granted clemency to 7 Iranians and dropped charges against 14 more in exchange for the release of 4 Americans held in Iran, a US official said on Saturday, January 16.

"Through a diplomatic channel that was established with the focus of getting our detained US citizens home, we can confirm Iran has released from imprisonment four Americans detained in Iran: Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, Jason Rezaian, and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari," he said. 

A fifth American, identified as Matthew Trevitick, was also to be released as part of a different process. 

"We offered clemency to 7 Iranians, six of whom are dual US-Iranian citizens, who had been convicted or are pending trial in the United States. The United States also removed any Interpol red notices and dismissed any charges against 14 Iranians for whom it was assessed that extradition requests were unlikely to be successful."

Hekmati is a former US Marine arrested in August 2011, Abedini is a Christian pastor detained since December 2012. Rezaian is a Washington Post reporter detained in July 2014. Little is known about Khosravi-Roodsari. 

The US official also said that Iran has promised to help the United States determine the whereabouts of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent that went missing in Iran in March 2007.

The seven Iranians to be freed by the US are Nader Modanlou, Baharam Mekanik, Khosrow Afghahi, Arash Ghahraman, Touraj Faridi, Nima Golestaneh, and Ali Sabounchi, according to Iran's judiciary and the state broadcaster.

The announcement came as Iran and world powers led by the United States were expected to finally implement last July's nuclear deal, which will lift international sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic.