Iran released a jailed US researcher in exchange, and both were allowed to return to their home countries last week.
The scientist freed by the United States was Masoud Soleimani, an Iranian biologist arrested on 25 October 2018 after flying to the United States to take up a temporary research position at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He returned to Iran last week on December 7 after US authorities dropped all charges against him. The same day, Iran’s government released Xiyue Wang, a US citizen jailed in Iran in August 2016 on spying charges, Politico reported.
Brian Hook, the US government's special representative on Iran, said in an interview with Voice of America that the exchange is “a good first step, and I hope this leads to bigger and better things”.
US authorities had also arrested two of Soleimani’s former students, Mahboobe Ghaedi and Maryam Jazayeri shortly after detaining Soleimani. Both were released on bail pending a trial, but on 11 December, the US government announced it was also dropping all charges against them.
Jazayeri's lawyer Pate Page says the government told him it “did not believe it fair to continue the case against the two defendants when the main defendant [Soleimani] has been released”. At the time of the arrests, Ghaedi was a stem-cell researcher at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut; Jazayeri is a biochemist based in Louisville, Kentucky, and a US citizen.
Wang, who was studying for a PhD in Persian history at Princeton University in New Jersey in 2016, was detained on spying charges.