Biden sanctions Iran's former President Ahmadinejad after prisoner swap
19 September 2023
Fresh off a prisoner swap between Washington and Tehran, US President Joe Biden on Monday announced new sanctions against a former Iranian president and the country's Intelligence Ministry, Anadolu Agency reports.
"Today, we are sanctioning former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence under the Levinson Act for their involvement in wrongful detentions," Biden said in a statement. "And we will continue to impose costs on Iran for their provocative actions in the region."
The news came after Biden said five innocent Americans were "finally coming home" in a swap deal after being imprisoned in Iran.
"I am grateful to our partners at home and abroad for their tireless efforts to help us achieve this outcome, including the Governments of Qatar, Oman, Switzerland, and South Korea," Biden said, giving special thanks to the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, and to the sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq.
"As we celebrate the return of these Americans, we also remember those who did not return," he said, calling on Iran to "give a full account of what happened to Bob Levinson," the act's namesake, a former FBI agent who disappeared on Iran's Kish Island in 2011 and later died in custody in Iran, according to the US government.
In the statement, Biden also urged American passport holders to not travel to Iran.
Biden also said his administration remains "unflinching" in its efforts to "bring home every American held hostage or wrongfully detained."
The five freed US citizens landed in Doha, Qatar on Monday as part of a prisoner swap deal which includes the US unfreezing $6 billion in Iranian funds.
In a separate statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Biden administration has secured the release of more than 30 “wrongfully detained” Americans around the world.
“I am grateful to everyone from the State Department and across the government who worked tirelessly to bring home our U.S. citizens,” Blinken said, “We will not rest until we have brought home every wrongfully detained American.”
On Levinson, who remains unaccounted for more than 16 years after his disappearance, Blinken said: “We once again call upon the Iranian regime to give a full accounting of what happened to Bob Levinson.”
“Bob’s legacy lives on in the Levinson Act, which bolsters our ability to bring home hostages and wrongfully detained U.S. nationals held overseas, and President Biden’s Executive Order 14078, which builds on the Levinson Act and reinforces the tools to deter and disrupt hostage-taking and wrongful detention by other countries,” he said.
“We will use the Levinson Act and other tools to promote accountability for Iran and other regimes for the cruel practice of wrongful detention,” he added.