Imprisoned Iranian American businessman Siamak Namazi in San Francisco in 2006. (Reuters)

By Patrick Wintour

May 5, 2021

Two high profile American-Iranian dual nationals detained in Tehran have been moved to a new location inside Evin prison in a procedure that has previously led to the release of detainees, according to sources inside the jail.

The moves could add credence to Iranian media reports at the weekend that a prisoner swap involving four unidentified detainees might be, or had been, imminent.

Iran’s foreign ministry on Monday denied the reports. It also said it was not in negotiations over the release of another detainee, the British-Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, saying th case was an issue for the judiciary.

However, sources inside Evin prison said two American-Iranians, Morad Tahbaz and Siamak Namazi, were moved to new cells. Tahbaz was moved on Saturday and Namazi on Sunday to a different bloc that had previously been used to brief prisoners before being released, and to try to extract commitments. A representative of Namazi’s legal team denied that he had been moved from the general ward.

Two other former prominent detainees, Xiyue Wang and Nizar Zakka, were moved in the same way prior to their releases.

Tabhaz is co-founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation and in November 2019 was sentenced to 10 years in jail for being in contact with the US. Namazi is the longest-held US prisoner in Iran and was sentenced in October 2016 to 10 years.

Renewed nuclear talks between the US and Iran in Vienna have added to the possibility of side deals involving prisoner swaps. But in the complex world of negotiations, governments will tend to deny reports until they are completed.

… we have a small favour to ask. Millions are turning to the Guardian for open, independent, quality news every day, and readers in 180 countries around the world now support us financially.

We believe everyone deserves access to information that’s grounded in science and truth, and analysis rooted in authority and integrity. That’s why we made a different choice: to keep our reporting open for all readers, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. This means more people can be better informed, united, and inspired to take meaningful action.

In these perilous times, a truth-seeking global news organisation like the Guardian is essential. We have no shareholders or billionaire owner, meaning our journalism is free from commercial and political influence – this makes us different. When it’s never been more important, our independence allows us to fearlessly investigate, challenge and expose those in power.

The Guardian 

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.