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US Sharply Criticizes France for Prisoner Swap with Iran

US Sharply Criticizes France for Prisoner Swap with Iran

Sunday, 22 March, 2020 - 13:00
An image grab from footage obtained from Iran Press news agency on March 21, 2020, shows Jalal Rohollahnejad (C-L) greeting a relative upon his arrival in Tehran. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat

The Trump administration on Sunday harshly criticized France for releasing an Iranian man wanted for prosecution by the United States in an apparent prisoner swap with Iran.


The State Department said it “deeply regrets” the “unilateral” French decision to release Jalal Rohollahnejad, who was the subject of a US extradition request on charges of violating American sanctions on Iran.


Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that France had failed to uphold its obligations under a joint extradition treaty and harmed the cause of justice.


Rohollahnejad was released from French custody on Friday in an apparent swap for French researcher Roland Marchal, who had been detained in Iran for more than eight months on charges of violating state security laws.


“The United States deeply regrets France’s unilateral decision to release Iranian national Jalal Rohollahnejad from its custody,” she said. “There are multiple outstanding US charges against him related to the illegal export of equipment with military applications in violation of US sanctions.”


“The United States and France have a shared interest in bringing those accused of serious crimes to justice, particularly in cases with national security implications,” Ortagus said. “It is regrettable in this instance that France failed to uphold its treaty obligations and prevented justice from being pursued.”


Iranian state TV reported late Friday that Marchal had been freed, just hours after French authorities released Ruhollahnejad. It said France had planned to deliver Ruhollahnejad to the US for his alleged role in violating US sanctions on Iran. It said he had been in jail in France for more than a year.


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