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Iranian President says he's open to prisoner exchange, could open the door for Flint man

Hekmati family

The President of Iran suggests he may be open to a prisoner exchange with the United States. 

That is giving hope to a Flint family.

Amir Hekmatihas sat in an Iranian prison cell for nearly 1500 days.  The U.S. Marine veteran was visiting family in Tehran when he was arrested.  He was convicted of spying for the U.S., a charge he denies.

Efforts to win his release, and the release of other Americans held in Iranian prisons, have to this point been unsuccessful.

However, Iran’s president now suggests he may be open to a prisoner exchange with the United States.

In an interview with CNN, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says if the U.S. agreed to release Iranians held in U.S. prisons, he would consider releasing American prisoners. 

"If the Americans take the appropriate steps and set them free, certainly the right environment will be open and the right circumstances will be created for us to do everything within our power and our purview to bring about the swiftest freedom for the Americans held in Iran as well,” Rouhani told CNN. 

The release is dependent on final approval of a nuclear deal between Iran, the United States and several other nations.  Part of the deal includes the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran. 

The deal is firmly opposed by Israel and by many in the U.S. Congress.   But President Obama has secured enough support among Democrats to prevent Congress from scuttling the deal. 

Hekmati’s family has released a statement:

"While American, Iranian and world leaders convene at the United Nations General Assembly, we look forward to discussions about Amir Hekmati being front and center. While he serves no value being held, his release would build trust between the Iran and the United States.

Now that these two countries, and others, have concluded a complex nuclear agreement, which will begin implementation October 18, clearly an agreement to release Amir can be reached. Amir’s father is severely ill and he holds on to see his son once again."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Iranian counterpartover the weekend. Kerry says the fate of Americans held in Iranian prisons was among the topics discussed. 

In addition to Amir Hekmati, American and Iranian diplomats have discussed the status of Washington Post Tehran correspondent, Jason Rezaian and Saeed Abedini, a pastor from Idaho. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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