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US Official Tells Zarif 'Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is' Regarding Prisoners

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, speaks during a briefing with members of the president's Coronavirus Task Force in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2020.

Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security has responded to Iran’s foreign minister on the issue of prisoner’s by telling him to act to take back Iranian citizens he wants repatriated.

In recent days Mohammad Javad Zarif and other senior Iranian officials have been raising the issue of a possible prisoner swap with the United States, particularly speaking about Sirous Asgari, in U.S. custody.

In a tweet today, acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli responded to Zarif by accusing him of just talking and not taking real actions to take back Asgari and others he claims are “illegally” imprisoned in the U.S.

He told Zarif the U.S. has been trying to return Asgari and Iran has been dragging its feet. “How about you put your money where your mouth is?”, Cuccinelli wrote.

Almost immediately Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi responded to Cuccinelli on Twitter saying Zarif proposed a prisoner swap back in September 2018, and called Iranians arrested in the U.S. on criminal charges “hostages”.

Iran is holding several Western citizens and dual-nationals on dubious national security or spying charges. They have been tried without due process of law and are believed to be held as bargaining chips with the West. International human rights organizations have repeatedly called for their release.

Some prisoners have been reciprocally released since December, but Iran claims it wants a comprehensive prisoner exchange.

U.S. sanctions have pushed Iran’s economy to the brink and COVID-19 has put further pressure on Tehran, which has been deprived of its oil income, with more than 50 percent deficit in its budget.