Is US looking to swap prisoners with Iran?

The lawyer for a former Marine who was arrested in Iran in 2011 was reported on Tuesday as claiming the U.S. sought his client’s release through a prisoner swap.

Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabai, attorney for Amir Hekmati, told Iran's quasi-official Tasnim News Agency that the U.S. had made such a request. He added that it had been forwarded to the country’s judiciary, which has yet to respond, according to Reuters.


“The U.S. has submitted the request via its interest section in Iran,” Tabatabai reportedly told the news agency, though he apparently did not say who in Washington proposed the trade.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the administration had sought no such deal.

“The U.S government has not proposed a prisoner exchange for Mr. Hekmati. It is not true,” she said.

Hekmati is a former Marine who was arrested in Iran three years ago and accused of spying for the United States. He’s one of handful of U.S. citizens being held by Iran.

Earlier this month, Washington Post Jason Rezaian was charged with unspecified crimes and denied bail, a move that brought a sharp rebuke from Secretary of State John Kerry.

The U.S. has also repeatedly implored Tehran to help locate Robert Levinson, an ex-FBI agent who was on a rogue mission for the CIA when he disappeared more than six years ago.

Tabatabai’s claim comes one day after President Obama suggested the possibility of one day opening a U.S. Embassy in Iran.

“I never say never, but I think these things have to go in steps,” Obama said.