Fri, 29 Sep 2023

Businessman Grateful for Freedom After Years in Iran Prison

Voice of America
04 Jun 2023, 16:06 GMT+10

Kamran Ghaderi arrived back in Austria on Saturday after spending more than seven years in prison in Iran.

"I got back to Vienna about two hours ago. The trip back was interesting and pleasant, as I tasted freedom after 7½ years," he told VOA's Farsi Service in an exclusive interview.

"Today is the day to be thankful, more than anything else," he said. "I'd like to thank various groups and individuals who have made efforts not only for me, but for others as well."

"I thank my spouse, Harika. ... All this time, she has been running around and forming a group who would come to my rescue. I also thank my kids who supported her. ... They [the kids] grew up, they're savvy and helpful and have been patient," he said, adding he was also grateful to his mother, brother and friends in Iran, "who supported me greatly" with medical and financial matters.

Ghaderi and Massud Mosaheb, both Iranian Austrian dual citizens, were freed Friday with Danish citizen Thomas Kjems. The three and Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele, who was released last week, were traded for Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi.

Assadi was convicted in Belgium in 2021 in connection with a foiled bomb plot in France and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Iran said the charges against him were fabricated.

Mosaheb is the co-chairman of the Iranian-Austrian Friendship Society and had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage, while Ghaderi is a businessman who was also sentenced to 10 years for espionage.

The Belgian government said in a statement Friday that Mosaheb and Ghaderi were wrongfully arrested, Ghaderi in January 2016 and Mosaheb in January 2019, while Kjems was arrested in Iran in November 2022 in connection with women's rights demonstrations.

The United States advises against travel to Iran, as do many Western countries, because of the risk of arbitrary arrests.

The Belgian government helped secure the release of the four men but said no more Europeans would be exchanged for Assadi. Officially there are still 22 Europeans in Iranian prisons, they said.

While Ghaderi spoke of entering a new chapter in his life, he also expressed regret.

"I had mixed feelings upon my return," he said. "On the one hand, I was happy to see that there are people in the world who care for others and strive to free others and allowed me to return to the embrace of my family. On the other hand, I am upset that not all could come back. There are still some who are imprisoned there, and I wish that these politicians - as they made efforts for my sake over the years, something I am very grateful for - may also help regarding those others."

The release of these three European citizens comes about three weeks after the release of French and French Irish citizens, Benjamin Brier and Bernard Phelan.

Western countries have called the imprisonment of their citizens by Iran 'political hostage-taking' and have repeatedly asked it to end the practice.

However, Iran continues to arrest and imprison Western and dual-citizen citizens on charges such as espionage and action against national security.

Some information for this report came from Reuters.

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