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U.S. Navy Veteran Detained In Iran Freed As Part Of Deal

US citizen imprisoned in Iran, Michael White, seen with his mother. FILE PHOTO

U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who has been detained in Iran for nearly two years, is returning home after being freed from detention in Iran.

U.S. officials said on June 4 that White’s release is part of a prisoner deal involving an American-Iranian doctor prosecuted in the United States.

White was sentenced to 13 years in prison last year for allegedly insulting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and posting private information online.

In March, he was temporarily released on medical grounds amid the coronavirus pandemic to the Swiss Embassy.

The navy veteran was detained in July 2018 while he was visiting a woman he had met online and fallen in love with.

The AP news agency quoted U.S. officials as saying his release was part of an agreement involving Majid Taheri, an Iranian-American physician prosecuted by the Justice Department.

Taheri served 16 months for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and was sentenced on June 4 to time served, Fox News reported.

It cited a senior U.S. official as saying he had lived in the United States for 33 years and is a medical doctor in Florida.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter he was “Pleased that Dr. Majid Taheri and Mr. White will soon be joining their families."

Earlier in the day, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that White was “on a Swiss plane that just left Iranian Airspace” and should be home with his family "very soon."

“I will never stop working to secure the release of all Americans held hostage overseas! Thank you Switzerland for your great assistance,” he wrote in a separate tweet.

Switzerland, the intermediary between the U.S. and Iranian governments, has facilitated months of quiet negotiations over prisoners, reports said.

White’s mother, Joanne White, said in a statement that "the nightmare is over, and my son is safely in American custody and on his way home.”

The U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, flew to Zurich on a Swiss government aircraft with a doctor to meet White, AP quoted U.S. officials as saying.

Hook will accompany White to the United States aboard a U.S. plane, they said.

Several other U.S. citizens are currently imprisoned in Iran or out on bail.

The developments follow the deportation to Iran this week of Sirios Asgari, an Iranian scientist detained in the United States.

U.S. and Iranian officials have denied that his release was part of a prisoner swap.

Relations between Washington and Tehran have become increasingly hostile since 2018, when President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

With reporting by AP and Fox News