Iran rejects Trump demand, says free detained Iranians

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US president warned that Iran would face 'new and serious consequences' if detained men were not released

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi (AFP)
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Monday 24 July 2017 8:37 UTC
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Iran demanded on Saturday that the United States release Iranians detained there, a day after US President Donald Trump called on the Islamic Republic to release three US citizens.

"America should quickly release Iranian prisoners in the country," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said, according to the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA).

On Friday, Trump urged Tehran to return Robert Levinson, an American former law enforcement officer who disappeared in Iran more than a decade ago, and to release businessman Siamak Namazi and his father, Baquer, both jailed on espionage charges.

Trump warned that Iran would face "new and serious consequences" if the three men were not released. 

"The judiciary, courts and judges in Iran are completely independent, as in any other country," Ghasemi said in a statement. "Any interventionist and threatening statement by American officials and institutions has no effect on the will and determination of the country's judicial system to try and punish criminals and violators of the country's laws and national security."

The statement capped a week of US rhetoric against Tehran, which announced last Sunday that another US citizen, Xiyue Wang, a graduate student from Princeton University, had been sentenced to 10 years in jail on spying charges.

On Tuesday, Washington slapped new economic sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile programme and said Tehran's "malign activities" in the Middle East undercut any "positive contributions" coming from the 2015 nuclear accord.

Last October, an Iranian court sentenced 46-year-old Siamak Namazi and his father, Baquer Namazi, 80, to 10 years in prison on charges of spying and cooperating with the US.

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US warns Iran of 'new and serious consequences' if Americans not returned

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps detained Siamak in October 2015 while he was visiting his family in Tehran, and Baquer, a former Iranian provincial governor and ex-UNICEF official, in February last year, family members said.

Levinson, a former agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and for the Drug Enforcement Administration, disappeared in Iran in 2007. The US government has a $5m reward for information leading to his safe return.

Levinson left Iran years ago and the Islamic Republic has no information about his whereabouts, Ghasemi said on Saturday.

"The statements of the White House, as usual, are an example of interference in Iran's internal affairs and the demands are unacceptable and rejected," Ghasemi said, according to ISNA.