VOA – Two days after the U.S. and Iran began a prisoner exchange, VOA has learned that two of the three Iranians who remained in the U.S. after being granted clemency had conditions attached to their clemencies. The legal status of the third individual was unclear.
Court filings seen by VOA show Kambiz Attar Kashani was released from a federal prison in Michigan on Monday after receiving a presidential commutation of his sentence, while Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi received a presidential pardon as he awaited trial on federal charges. The clemencies for both men, signed by President Joe Biden, had similar conditions attached.
No court records were found by VOA showing a pardon for Amin Hasanzadeh, a third Iranian identified by Tehran as being part of the prisoner swap. The latest publicly visible filing on Hasanzadeh’s court docket is from August 23, when his lawyers notified a judge that their client’s U.S. permanent residency had expired on that date.
The other two Iranians granted clemency by the U.S. under the deal, Mehrdad Ansari and Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, arrived in Tehran late Monday after being flown to Qatar earlier in the day.
🚨🚨🚨Two freed Iranians returned to Tehran via Qatar Mehrdad Ansari and Reza Sarhangpour, two Iranian citizens released from the US, arrived in Tehran a few minutes ago via private jet. pic.twitter.com/ZYoUSqzXEm— Tehran Bazaar (@TehranBazaar) September 18, 2023
Kashani, an IT manager who is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, was released from a Federal Correctional Institution in Milan, Michigan, on Monday, according to his Bureau of Prisons inmate locator record seen by VOA on Tuesday.
Kashani had been detained since his January 2022 arrest and was later sentenced to 30 months in prison. He was convicted of illegally exporting U.S. goods and technology to end users in Iran, including its Central Bank, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. He was freed five months before his originally scheduled release in February 2024.
Kashani’s lawyer, Babak Hoghooghi-Esfahani, did not respond to a VOA message sent Tuesday requesting comment on Kashani’s future plans.
Allegation of acting as unregistered agent
Afrasiabi, a political commentator and author with U.S. permanent residency, had been awaiting trial since being charged by New York federal prosecutors in January 2021 with allegedly acting as an unregistered agent of Iran.
Court filings showed Afrasiabi’s attorney, Sabrina Shroff, asked a judge on Monday to cancel his then-upcoming trial in January due to his criminal case being “resolved [by] the actions of the Executive Branch” of the U.S. government. She also requested that Afrasiabi be released from pretrial supervision of his movements and that his bond payment be refunded to him.
A subsequent Tuesday filing by the federal prosecutors in Afrasiabi’s case asked the judge to grant his lawyer’s requests. But the prosecutors also wrote that because Afrasiabi’s pardon “is conditioned on a number of terms,” they were asking the judge to dismiss the charges against Afrasiabi “without prejudice.”
The judge approved the government’s motion in another filing seen later Tuesday, meaning Afrasiabi’s case was terminated. But the dismissal of charges “without prejudice” meant prosecutors can reopen the criminal case against Afrasiabi under certain conditions.
Commutation, pardon had conditions
Biden’s commutation for Kashani and pardon for Afrasiabi were signed on September 14 and had three of the same conditions for both men. They include not committing any additional crime against the U.S. or violation of U.S. laws; waiving and releasing “any and all claims, demands, rights, and causes of action of whatsoever kind and nature against the U.S., its agents, servants and employees”; and not accepting or receiving “any financial benefit, directly or indirectly, in any manner or amount, from any book, movie, or other publication or production, in any form or media, about [their] situation.”Kashani prosecution request and commutation
Biden wrote that if at any time, either of the two men violates one or more of the terms of their clemencies, he or a future president has “complete discretion” to void Kashani’s commutation and reimpose the original sentence and to void Afrasiabi’s pardon.
Engineer had been awaiting trial
Hasanzadeh, an engineer, has been awaiting trial since being arrested in November 2019 on federal charges, including stealing technical data from a U.S. company and sending it to an Iran-based sibling involved in military research, and fraudulently concealing his own Iranian military affiliation from U.S. immigration authorities who granted him permanent residency in 2013.
Hasanzadeh has been on supervised release at his Michigan home since March 2021, before which he was in pretrial detention. In an August 23 letter to a judge, his attorneys said the expiry of his permanent residency will make it “substantially harder” for him to prove his “lawful status for purposes of obtaining employment and certain public benefits.” The letter also said it will be “likely impossible for him to return to the U.S. were he to travel internationally.”
One of the attorneys, Benton Martin, declined to comment when VOA contacted him Monday to ask about Hasanzadeh’s status. It was not clear whether any legal actions had been taken in Hasanzadeh’s case in recent days without being listed on his court docket.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan did not immediately respond to a VOA request for comment Wednesday asking whether Hasanzadeh received a presidential pardon and faces the risk of deportation after losing his permanent residency.
There also was no immediate response from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to a similar question VOA posed Wednesday.