Iranian official says there are ways to free U.S. journalist: NPR

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 04, 2015 1:37 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The speaker of Iran's parliament said there were "practical ways" to free Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post's correspondent in Tehran who has been tried on espionage charges, and said a prisoner swap was one possible option.

Ali Larijani, speaking in an interview with NPR aired on Friday, was asked whether there was a way for Rezaian and other Americans held in Iran to be freed.

"There are practical ways of course. For example, there is a number of Iranians in prison here (in the United States) Definitely for matters of this sort, one can come up with solutions. I think your politicians know about those ways," he told NPR, speaking through an interpreter.

When the interviewer asked whether he was referring to a prisoner exchange, Larijani replied: "That's one way. There are other ways that the judiciary systems of the two countries can come up with. It is the judiciary that has to decide about it."

Larijani was interviewed in New York, where he was attending a conference of parliamentary speakers.

His comments contrasted with a statement by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi, who was quoted by Iran's ISNA news agency on Aug. 25 as saying Tehran was not considering a prisoner exchange.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States was not going to respond to every comment by Iranian officials.

"We’ve raised our concerns over the detained and missing U.S. citizens at a variety of levels with Iranian officials and will continue to do so," Kirby said.

A lawyer for Rezaian, who was arrested over a year ago, was quoted by Iranian media on Aug. 10 as saying that a verdict in his trial could be issued within a week, though so far no verdict has been announced.

Rezaian, 39, was born in California and holds dual U.S. and Iranian citizenship. The Post has dismissed the charges against him as "absurd" and urged the U.N. Human Rights Council to help secure his release.

Obama has called on Tehran to release Rezaian and two other detained Americans - Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati - and to help find Robert Levinson, an American who disappeared in Iran more than eight years ago.

Iran and the United States have not had diplomatic ties since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. However, a July 14 nuclear deal between Iran, the United States and other powers fueled hopes of a thaw in relations.

(Reporting by David Storey; Editing by Paul Simao)