US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday urged Iran to release a US citizen, whom he said has been a “political pawn” for years, as nations move towards resumption of the nuclear deal.
Imad Shargi was sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage, Iranian media reported in January 2021 after he was detained trying to flee the country.
Blinken said it has been four years since the Iranian American venture capitalist, and “the family has anxiously waited for Imad to be released by the Iranian government.
“Like many other families, their loved one is treated as a political pawn,” the top US diplomat said in a post on Twitter. “We call on Iran to stop this inhuman practice and release Imad.”
US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Mali said on Saturday that Shargie was arrested exactly four years ago.
“He was cleared of all charges but then convicted in absentia, re-arrested, and has now spent more than 500 days in Evin prison,” Malle said. “Emad, Namazi and Morad Tahbaz should all be allowed to come home now.”
More than a dozen Western nationals are being held in Iran, even though Tehran allowed two British nationals to return home last month after detaining two British nationals and leaving the other in prison.
Those behind bars, under house arrest or unable to leave Iran face a painful wait to see if a possible deal on the Iranian nuclear program will help their prospects.
In 2015, Washington and five other world powers signed a historic agreement with Tehran to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
Under Donald Trump’s presidency, the United States abandoned the deal in 2018 and reinstated economic sanctions against Tehran, in response to the lifting of sanctions imposed on its nuclear efforts.
Months of talks in the Austrian capital Vienna are aimed at getting Washington back on the deal, including lifting sanctions, and ensuring Tehran full compliance with its commitments.
Negotiators say they are close to a conclusion but have not finalized all the points yet.