Business Insider – On Sunday night, President Donald Trump retweeted a news report indicating that Iran is ready to negotiate a prisoner swap with the US “without preconditions.”
The article, published by Time on Sunday, reported that senior Iranian officials are calling for a prisoner swap with the US.
Time cited Iranian news site Khabaronline.ir, which quoted Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei as saying Iran was ready and willing to negotiate.
“We have stated that we are ready to [negotiate] exchange for all prisoners and discuss this issue without any preconditions, but the United States that has so far refused to respond,” Rabei was quoted as saying.
“We hope that as the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease threatens the lives of Iranian citizens in the US prisons, the US government eventually will prefer lives to politics,” Rabei continued.
“We hold the US government responsible for the lives and health of all Iranian citizens who are away from their families,” he added. “We have information that Iranian citizens in American prisons are not in good condition and are not well cared for. This is worrying for us.”
It’s unclear if Trump was indicating his endorsement of a possible prisoner swap through retweeting the article. Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to Business Insider for comment.
Last week, The New York Times reported that Iran and the US are negotiating a deal to secure the release of a US Navy veteran named Michael White, who has been in Iranian custody for nearly two years. According to The Times, Iran hopes to exchange White for an unnamed Iranian-American doctor.
A spokesperson for White’s family, Jonathan Franks, told The Times that he had been told negotiations were underway.
“If the Iranians have a symmetrical deal on the table we would love for the administration to take it and bring Michael home,” Franks told The Times.
According to the State Department, White has been in custody in Iran since 2018 and is serving a 13-year-sentence. He was released on medical furlough in March and was sent to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran for medical testing and evaluation.
Franks said in late March that since being released on furlough, White exhibited symptoms “consistent with COVID-19,” including “fever, fatigue, cough, and shortness of breath.” Franks added that White is “an immunocompromised cancer patient and his situation is urgent.”
US and Iranian officials said last week that the US is expected to soon deport an Iranian professor named Sirous Asgari, 59, who was acquitted of stealing US trade secrets in 2019.
Abolfazl Mehrabadi, an Iranian diplomat, told Reuters last week that Asgari tested positive for the novel coronavirus and is under the care of US immigration authorities. An ICE spokesman confirmed the diagnosis to Reuters.
Reuters said that Asgari might be part of the prisoner swap.