(Johnston, Iowa) — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Saturday morning he was not aware of the specifics of the release of four Americans held prisoner in Iran, but said it would be wrong to for their release to have come as part of a prisoner exchange, saying it creates an incentive for enemies of the United States to take U.S. nationals hostage.
“If these reports are true, of course we’re happy for them and their families, but they should have never been there,” he added.
But Rubio added that reports that their release came as part of an exchange for Iranian prisoners held by the U.S. were troubling. “We shouldn’t be involved in swaps,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is that this tells us everything we need to know about the Iranian regime—that they take people hostage in order to gain concessions,” he continued. “And the fact that they can get away with it with this administration I think has created an incentive for more governments to do this around the world.”
Rubio listed the 2014 exchange of Cuban spies for a U.S. aide worker in Cuba that helped pave the way for a rapprochement between the two countries, and the swap of Guantanamo Bay prisoners for Army Sgt. Bowe Berghdal, as part of the problem.
“[The Cubans] released someone who did nothing wrong in Alan Gross in exchange for people who have committed crimes,” he continued. “In the case of these individuals they did nothing wrong and we’ll see if in fact it’s true, we’ll see what concessions Iran gained beyond massive sanctions relief. But when you do deals like the Bergdahl deal and other things, you are incentivizing people to take Americans hostage and prisoner even if they’ve done nothing wrong.”
Iran Releases Washington Post Journalist and 3 Other Americans.
Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian was one of four dual-nationality prisoners released from prison in Iran as part of a prisoner exchange on Saturday, Iranian media reported.
A fifth detained American will also be released, unrelated to the prisoner swap, the Associated Press reported, citing a U.S. official.
“Based on an approval of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and the general interests of the Islamic Republic, four Iranian prisoners with dual-nationality were freed today within the framework of a prisoner swap deal,” the Tehran prosecutor said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
The Associated Press, citing a U.S. official and an unnamed source close to the Iranian judiciary, also reported Rezaian had been released. Rezaian, the Washington Post’s Iran bureau chief, had been held in a prison in Tehran since his arrest in July 2014, according to the Post.
Fars named Amir Hekmat, Saeed Abedini, and Nosratollah Khosrawi as the three other Americans freed. Other outlets had previously named Siamak Namazi as the fourth prisoner released, but Fars emphasized that Namazi remains in jail because “his charges are financial, and not political.”
The U.S. official cited by the Associated Press said that Rezaian, Abedini, Hekmat and a fourth unnamed prisoner would be released and flown to Switzerland from Iran.
The United States released seven Iranian-Americans who were being held on sanctions-related charges, according to Fars, and asked INTERPOL to stop prosecution of 14 other Iranian nationals. The news agency named the Iranians released as Nader Modanlou, Bahram Mechanic, Khosrow Afqahi, Arash Ghahreman, Touraj Faridi, Nima Golestaneh and Ali Sabounchi.