Iran Prisoner Swap Almost Foiled by Last-Minute Twist

Iranian officials detained Jason Rezaian's wife, mother on Sunday
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 19, 2016 8:12 AM CST
Iran Prisoner Swap Almost Foiled by Last-Minute Twist
Jason Rezaian, his wife Yeganeh Salehi, his mother Mary Rezaian, and his brother Ali Rezaian pose for a photo on Monday in Landstuhl, Germany.   (Martin Baron/The Washington Post via AP)

A prisoner swap that included the release of five Americans held in Iran was almost foiled by a last-minute twist on Sunday: the detention of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian's wife and mother. Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati, and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini were about to leave Tehran—a fourth American had already departed and a fifth had decided to stay in the country—when Rezaian's wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and mother Mary Rezaian "disappeared," a US official tells the New York Times. "Nobody could find them, and they were not answering phones. The Iranians then said there were legal issues that would prevent either from leaving the country." The lead American negotiator who brokered the swap, which he said included Rezaian's family, refused to depart without them.

John Kerry called the Iranian foreign minister, who started investigating. Iran's prosecutor general eventually issued an order allowing the family to leave, but American officials couldn't get in contact with them. "We started to conclude that Mary and Yegi were being held to destroy the deal," the official says. After a 12-hour delay, they were finally permitted to board a plane bound for Geneva, per the Guardian. It was "touch-and-go until the last minute," says Jason Rezaian, who's met with editors in Germany, where he's recovering at a military hospital. He says he's "feeling good" after 18 months in an Iranian prison; at one point, he endured 49 days in solitary confinement, but he found solace reading books, per the Washington Post. "I know people are eager to hear from me, but I want to process this for some time," he says. (More Jason Rezaian stories.)

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