Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang, imprisoned since 2016, was exchanged for Masoud Soleimani, an Iranian scientist arrested at Chicago airport last year and convicted on charges of violating US trade sanctions.
Wang was due to fly to the US via Oman and a US military base in Frankfurt, Germany. There had been no prior indication he was due to be released, and he was apparently shocked when he was told the news. He initially travelled to Iran to study Farsi and Iranian history.
In a statement, Donald Trump said: “Mr Wang had been held under the pretence of espionage since August 2016. We thank our Swiss partners for their assistance in negotiating Mr Wang’s release with Iran.”
The Swiss embassy in Tehran looks out for America’s interests in the country as the US embassy there has been closed since the 1979 student takeover and 444-day hostage crisis.
Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, accompanied Soleimani to Switzerland to make the exchange and will return with Wang, according to a US official who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The swap took place in Zurich and Hook and Wang were en route to Landstuhl in Germany where Wang was to be examined by doctors, the official said. Hook was expected to return to the US from Germany alone, as Wang was expected to be evaluated for several days.