VIENNA: Two Austrian citizens held in Iran for years have been freed and are returning home, the Austrian government said in Friday.
The two are part of a wider exchange of European prisoners for an Iranian diplomat jailed in Belgium for planning an attack in France.
Dual citizens Kamran Ghaderi and Massud Mossaheb were released after 2,709 and 1,586 days respectively, and were “on their way to Austria, where their families are waiting for them longingly”, the Austrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, thanking Belgium and Oman for help in securing their release.
At the same time, Belgium said the two Austrians and a Dane had been exchanged for Iranian diplomat Asadollah Assadi in an Iran-Belgium prisoner swap under which Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele was released last week.
The Austrian statement made no mention of the exchange or of other prisoners released.
Ghaderi, an IT manager, was arrested in 2016 on arrival at Tehran’s main airport as he sought to visit relatives. He was later imprisoned on spying charges.
Mossaheb, a mechanical engineer now in his 70s who had worked in the aerospace industry, was arrested in January 2019 while accompanying a delegation from a radiation therapy technology company that provides cancer treatment, according to Amnesty International.
He was also convicted of spying.
The men’s cases mirror those of other Western nationals who have been imprisoned in Iran on spying charges that they, their families and rights groups say are false. Western countries accuse Iran of falsely imprisoning their nationals to use them as bargaining chips. Iran stands by the convictions.
Austria’s Foreign Ministry said it would continue to work to secure the release of a third Austrian held in Iran whom it did not name and whose appeal against their conviction is ongoing.