detained Briton is among five prisoners being released by Iran in a prisoner swap deal with the US.
Morad Tahbaz, 67, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent is expected to be released alongside four Americans under a deal struck by the Biden administration to issue a $6bn (£4.8bn) waiver for international banks to issue frozen Iranian money without incurring sanctions.
According to the AP news agency, a US official confirmed that a flight carrying the five prisoners flew out of Tehran on Monday.
Iranian state media soon after said the flight had left Tehran.
The five prisoners, who include US nationals Siamak Namazi and Emad Sharghi, had all been held on widely-criticised spying charges at Tehran’s infamous Evin prison.
The jail once held Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was released last year.
Under the deal, five unnamed Iranian citizens held in the US will also be released.
The US waiver means that European, Middle Eastern and Asian banks will not run afoul of US sanctions in converting the money frozen in South Korea and transferring it to Qatar’s central bank, where it will be held for Iran to use for the purchase of humanitarian goods.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said: “Fortunately Iran’s frozen assets in South Korea were released and God willing today the assets will start to be fully controlled by the government and the nation.
“On the subject of the prisoner swap, it will happen today and five prisoners, citizens of the Islamic Republic, will be released from the prisons in the US,” he added. “Five imprisoned citizens who were in Iran will be given to the US side.”
He said two of the Iranian prisoners will stay in the US. Washington has yet to publicly comment on the swap.
The announcement by Mr Kanaani comes weeks after Iran said that five Iranian-Americans had been transferred from prison to house arrest.
The deal has opened Joe Biden to fresh criticism from Republicans and others who say that the administration is helping boost the Iranian economy at a time when Iran poses a growing threat to American troops and Mideast allies.
The five prisoners Iran has said it seeks are mostly held over allegedly trying to export banned material to Iran, such as dual use electronics that can be used by a military.
The cash represents money South Korea owed Iran but had not yet paid for oil purchased before the US imposed sanctions on such transactions in 2019.
Iran and the U.S. have a history of prisoner swaps, with the most recent major exchange happening in 2016, when Iran came to a deal with world powers to restrict its nuclear program in return for an easing of sanctions.
The Standard has contacted the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office for comment.
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