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Iranian scientist freed by US arrives in Tehran

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. (YouTube)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iranian scientist Majid Taheri has returned home after his release from prison in the United States as part of a prisoner exchange, semiofficial Iranian news agency ISNA reported.

Taheri, who had been detained in the United States for 16 months, was freed on June 4 as Iran released U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who had been sentenced to 13 years in prison last year for allegedly insulting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and posting private information online.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari greeted Taheri upon his arrival on June 8 at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport said ISNA, which posted a picture of the pair speaking to reporters.

Taheri thanked Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“I thank the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and dear officials, including Mr. Zarif, who worked hard, and other officials who took months to help release me, as an Iranian physician accused of circumventing U.S. sanctions on medicine,” he was quoted as saying.

Taheri, an Iranian-American who had been working at a clinic in Tampa, Florida, was the second scientist to have returned to Iran from the United States in the past week, after Sirous Asgari flew home on June 3.

Taheri served 16 months for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and on June 4 a federal judge released him to go see family in Iran.

According to court documents, he pleaded guilty to charges he violated financial reporting requirements by depositing more than $277,000 at a bank.

On June 8, Taheri rejected accusations against him as “unfair and false,” according to Iran’s Fars news agency.

“I was helping the University of Tehran to develop a cancer vaccine, especially for women,” he was quoted as saying.

Iran-U.S. tensions have been on the rise in recent years as President Donald Trump has pursued a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Tehran.

Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the United States from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed crippling sanction on Iran.