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Iran's Judiciary Says It Was Not Involved In Any Prisoner Exchange Talks

Combo image of four Iranian dual nationals who are detained in Iran, (R to L) British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Iranian-American Karen Vafadari, Iranian- American Siamak Namazi, and British-Iranian Kamal Froughi. File photos

While the spokesman of the Islamic Republic judiciary insists that it has not been involved in any talks concerning a prisoner swap between Tehran and Washington, the spokesman of Iranian Foreign Ministry asserts that the case had been discussed at high-levels, for a long time.

During an event in New York on April 24, Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had said that Tehran is ready to swap prisoners with the United States.

"I put this offer on the table publicly now. [Let's] Exchange them (the prisoners)", Zarif said, adding that he has the authority to swap prisoners.

This comes while on previous occasions, he had repeatedly noted that since the Judiciary is an independent power in the Islamic Republic, it was not in his capacity to intervene in the judicial affairs of the country.

However, he made any such deal conditional on the exchange of Iranians facing extradition to the U.S. for sanctions violations.

Zarif's comments were echoed a day later by the newly appointed Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is ready to do its duties for exchange of U.S. convicts passing prison terms with the Iranians that are in U.S. prisons charged with the false charge of violation of sanctions,' said Mousavi.

Nonetheless, the spokesman of the judiciary, Gholam Hossein Esmaeeli, says that within nearly the last two months, the judiciary (under its new head, mid-ranking cleric Ebrahim Raeisi) has not been involved in any negotiation concerning prisoners swap."

Esmaeeli, who is also recently appointed as the spokesman of the judiciary, immediately admitted that he is not aware if there were such talks before his term, or not.

However, Esmaeeli reiterated that there have been no talks held about the swap of British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with U.K. in exchange for an Iranian prisoner.

"She has been sentenced in one case and is in jail going through her sentence," he said on Tuesday, May 7. "She is awaiting another upcoming trial on other charges," he added.

Iranian Intelligence authorities arrested Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe at the Imam Khomeini International Airport on April 3, 2016, on her way to London where she has been residing, after visiting her parents in Mashhad, northeast Iran.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 39, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, is serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly plotting to overthrow Iran's clerical establishment, a charge she and her family have denied.

Esmaeeli's latest comment on the 39-year-old Iranian-British is in contrast with what Zarif had earlier said.

"Now we hear about Nazanin Zaghari and her child, and I feel sorry for them, and I've done my best to help," Zarif said, adding, "But nobody talks about this (Iranian) lady in Australia (Negar Qods Kani, convicted for violating sanctions imposed on Tehran) who gave birth to a child in prison, whose child is growing up outside prison with his mother in prison."

However, Zarif later maintained that his offer for swapping prisoners was limited to the U.S., and did not include the U.K.