Iran called for the creation of a prisoner exchange program with the United States, as talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between the countries and other parties to the agreement continued this week.
The call has been made several times by Iran. In September, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a virtual address to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that Iran was ready for a full prisoner exchange with the U.S. The suggestion was also raised by Mr. Zarif in 2019.
The U.S. government has repeatedly demanded that Iran return its U.S. prisoners, accusing the country of detaining its U.S. citizens to gain leverage in negotiations. Iran has denied the charge.
An audio recording of Iran’s Foreign Minister in which he complained about the country’s Revolutionary Guards Corps exerting undue influence on Iranian diplomacy, was leaked. In the recording, Mr. Zarif also said he had “zero” influence over Iran’s foreign policy.
The leak angered Iran’s government, which has since replaced the head of the state-run think-tank in charge of conducting the interview, and barred 15 people involved in the interview from leaving Iran.
An inquiry has also been ordered into the leak, which Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said had been planned to disrupt talks between Iran and the six states in Vienna currently engaged in trying to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
And Iranian officials have ordered Baha’is in Iran to bury their dead in a mass grave which had been used to bury political prisoners executed in 1988. Baha’is have traditionally buried their friends and family in a cemetery in Tehran, but have now been forced to use the grave site which was built after the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered the executions of thousands of individuals who opposed the Iranian regime.
Baha’i families in Iran said they were concerned that the Iranian government was trying to conceal evidence of the mass executions, after officials said the grave site had been emptied.
Human rights organizations say that the 350,000 Baha’is in Iran are routinely marginalized and oppressed by the Islamic Republic, which regards the religious group to be a heretical sect, and which has the power to imprison Shia Muslims who convert to the religion.