FILE PHOTO: Spanish man, Santiago Sanchez, walks in Iraq's Kurdistan region towards Qatar, where he aims to attend the 2022 World Cup, near Zakho, Iraq August 28, 2022. REUTERS/Charlotte Bruneau/

 – The release of a Spanish national detained in Iran was a “humane” step, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said at a press conference on Monday.

The semi-official SNN news agency said on Sunday Santiago Sanchez had been handed over to officials of the Spanish Embassy in Tehran, and was due to leave Tehran for Madrid shortly afterwards.

In a statement posted on the social media platform X, the Iranian Embassy in Madrid also said Sanchez had been released.

The Spanish soccer fan was reported missing by Spain’s foreign ministry in October 2022 after setting out to walk to Qatar to attend the World Cup.

41-year-old Sanchez was last heard from on Oct. 1, 2022, when he sent friends a picture of himself on the Iraq-Iran border with the caption: “Entry to Iran”.

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The following month activist HRANA news agency reported that Iranian security forces had arrested at least two Spanish nationals during nationwide protests that started in 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police.

It identified one as Sanchez, and the other as 24-year-old Ana Baneira, who according to the Spanish Foreign ministry was released in February 2023.

Sanchez’ release was undertaken “with regard to human mercy and legal proceedings”, Kanaani said in response to a question.

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(Reporting by Elwely Elwelly; Additional reporting by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Jan Harvey)