Iran has released five American prisoners, moving them to Tehran’s airport for a flight to the Qatari capital, Doha, as part of a prisoner exchange with the United States.
Four of the five were moved to house arrest last month as part of the deal. The fifth prisoner had been moved to house arrest earlier.
Monday’s developments signal that the prisoner exchange clinched last month has gone through. The agreement also includes a release of frozen Iranian funds.
The United States and Iran will each free five prisoners under an agreement that also involves the transfer of $6bn of frozen Iranian assets from South Korea.
The deal first made public on August 10, will remove a major irritant between Washington and Tehran although the rivals remain deeply at odds over a range of other issues.
Iran and the US have a history of prisoner swaps dating back to the 1979 US embassy takeover and hostage crisis following the Iranian Revolution.
There has been no indication the prisoner deal will spur movement on restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, which saw Tehran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions against its economy. The US withdrew from that agreement in 2018.
The prisoners :
Five Iranian prisoners are expected to be released by the US as part of the deal:
Kaveh Afrasiabi, a political scientist and US resident who was charged with being an unregistered agent for the Iranian government.
Mehrdad Moein Ansari, a 40-year-old Iranian resident of the United Arab Emirates and Germany who was convicted of violating sanctions on Iran.
Amin Hassanzadeh, a permanent US resident accused four years ago of stealing secrets to send to Iran.
Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, a 46-year-old who is also a Canadian national charged with illegally exporting laboratory equipment to Iran.
Kambiz Attar Kashani, a 44-year-old dual national convicted of conspiring to illegally export technologies and goods to Iran.
Only two of the Iranian prisoners will return to Iran, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said. “One of them, as he has family in another country, will be moved to join them in that third country, and apparently two of our citizens imprisoned in the US have said they wish to remain there due to their history of staying there,” Kanani said.
The identities of three of the American prisoners, all of whom were arrested on charges of espionage and collaborating with a foreign government, are known. They are:
Siamak Namazi, a 51-year-old businessman held in Evin Prison since 2015, making him the longest-serving American prisoner in Iran.
Emad Sharghi, a 59-year-old businessman arrested in 2018.
Morad Tahbaz, a 67-year-old environmentalist who also holds British citizenship and was arrested in 2018.
The identities of the other two prisoners have remained secret, but Western media have reported that one is a woman.
Danushka Gunathilaka found not guilty
Sri Lankan cricketer Danushka Gunathilaka has been found not guilty of sexual intercourse without consent following an accusation of “stealthing” involving a Tinder date in Sydney.
The 32-year-old was arrested in November while in Australia for the T-20 World Cup, after he went for drinks with a woman near the Opera House.
He had chatted online for several days and then had dinner with the woman, who can’t be identified for legal reasons, before being invited back to her eastern suburbs home, the NSW District Court heard.
The Crown’s case was that he removed a condom during intercourse without the woman’s knowledge when she had consented only to protected sex.
The complainant told the court she did not see the batsman remove the condom, but saw it on the floor shortly after the intercourse stopped.
Judge Sarah Huggett today found evidence about the “genesis” of the woman’s complaint undermined the reliability of her evidence. The judge said the woman had given different accounts in her two statements; the second, given in April this year, went into further detail about the issue of ‘stealthing’ and added that the complainant did not have a “clear memory” of what happened around the time she saw the condom on the floor.
“The evidence establishes there was no opportunity for the accused to remove the condom during the intercourse because that intercourse was continuous,” she said.
Judge Huggett considered the woman’s first conversations with two close friends, which seemed to frame the complaint in terms of the roughness of the sexual activity.
Gunathilaka’s defence counsel argued the woman lied, gave self-serving evidence and appeared to not remember parts of the night that were inconsistent with a “narrative” she created, which morphed over time.
Murugan Thangaraj SC told the judge the Crown failed to establish the woman’s reliability and highlighted what he said were inconsistencies and implausibility in her version of events.
He said it was “completely illogical” to claim she felt ambushed before lighting candles in her bedroom, effectively setting it up for “a romantic sexual liaison”.
In court, the woman alleged Mr Gunathilaka kissed her “forcefully” on the way home and on her couch, where she felt “ambushed” before moving to the bedroom.
She further alleged he choked her three times during sex, leaving her fearful for her life, and ignored requests to go slow.
Judge Huggett found the woman was an “intelligent witness who gave evidence in a considered way”, and was overall a “calm and responsive” witness.
But the judge said there were times when it appeared the complainant was motivated by a desire to paint the accused in an unfavourable light.
In his police interview, Mr Gunathilaka said he told her his preference generally was to not use condoms but wanted to on the night because it was their first meeting.
In the interview, the cricketer made mention of there being two condoms because one malfunctioned — which the Crown said was a deliberate mistruth.
But Judge Huggett disagreed, finding that his answers were the result of “confusion, fatigue, a language barrier and possibly memory”.
“I formed the distinct impression he was doing his best to be truthful and assist the police,” she said.
Sitting in the interview room, Gunathilaka told police the woman had organised him a taxi and he kissed her before leaving. “She didn’t even text me, I didn’t text her also,” he said. “And that’s it, then I’m here.”
Gunathilaka has been in Australia on bail since mid-November.
“Unite to secure a developed Sri Lanka by 2048” – President
President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his Milad-Un-Nabi message urged all Muslim brethren in Sri Lanka, to unite at this juncture in working towards strengthening the path to secure a developed Sri Lanka by 2048.
“Let us together overcome the challenges facing our nation, while adhering to the principles espoused by the Holy Prophet Muhammad, in ensuring a brighter future for all” he said.
The full text of the President’s message :
“My greetings to the Muslim community in Sri Lanka and around the world, observing Milad Un Nabi, being the auspicious occasion commemorating the birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam.
He is celebrated as the final messenger of Allah, known for profound teachings of love and peace that encompass humanity. His journey to spread the message of Islam in the challenging societal context of that time, was marked by significant trials. Even in the face of adversity, the Holy Prophet’s unwavering patience and equanimous strength served as powerful attributes. He was victorious in attaining his aspirations, through boundless sacrifices for faith and humanity.
As we celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday today, it is timely to resolve to uphold the values that were the hallmark of his life, which include mutual understanding, brotherhood, assistance to one another and fairness. Our commitment to fostering social harmony is the most meritorious tribute which could be paid to his legacy.
I urge all Muslim brethren in Sri Lanka, to unite at this juncture in working towards strengthening the path, to secure a developed Sri Lanka by 2048. Let us together overcome the challenges facing our nation, while adhering to the principles espoused by the Holy Prophet Muhammad, in ensuring a brighter future for all.
I wish all those of the Islamic faith, a joyous Eid Milad-Un-Nabi, filled with love, peace and prosperity!”
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Clinical Australia sign off World Cup preparations with consolation win
Having posted the highest ODI total at the Saurashtra Cricket Stadium, Rajkot on Wednesday (September 27), Australia’s bowlers led by Glenn Maxwell put up a disciplined performance as the visitors registered a 66-run win over India to end the series with a much-needed consolation victory. The result is a morale-booster for Australia, given that this was the last international game before the World Cup that starts next week.
Chasing a strong target of 353, India started with an unconventional move of using Washington Sundar as the makeshift opener with skipper Rohit Sharma. With both Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan unavailable, the think tank had to try a new opening pair but the move didn’t really work. The opening stand went past fifty but it was dominated by Rohit who looked in sublime touch. Anything remotely short was dispatched and the ball-striking from the captain was lethal. Sundar, meanwhile, was scratchy and eventually fell to Maxwell after the first Powerplay.
Like the first innings where the older ball was tougher to score off, the pattern repeated and with the track slowing as well, the chase wasn’t easy. Rohit and Kohli stitched a stand to keep things going but neither were able to exert any sort of dominance on the Australian bowlers. The visitors used the surface cleverly, mixing up their pace and lengths to stifle the scoring rate. However, as long as Rohit and Kohli were together, India had their chance of getting across the line. Maxwell turned the tide with two diametrically opposite bits of incredible cricket.
It needed magic to get rid of Rohit the way he was batting and Maxwell produced a stunning one-handed return catch to send back the Indian skipper. It was almost a reflex action than anything else but crucially for Australia, Maxwell held onto it, showing as much surprise himself as the others who saw him do the feat. If the Rohit wicket had a huge slice of luck, the Kohli strike was the result of brilliant defensive bowling. Maxwell stifled the India no.3 by keeping the radar right. Kohli tried to use his feet multiple times but failed to do so as the length was pulled back. Eventually, a desperate pull found the top-edge and Smith took a good catch.
The twin strikes gave Australia the much-needed momentum and India were never really able to stage a comeback from there. Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul were able to get starts but the run rate kept mounting before the former was dismissed by Maxwell with a lovely arm-ball. With a long tail today, India couldn’t have afforded to leave too much for the end and unfortunately for them, that’s what happened. Tanveer Sangha was impressive alongside Maxwell while the other Aussie bowlers all did their parts perfectly well.
Earlier on, Australia put up their best batting performance of the series thanks to fifties from their top-four. Mitchell Marsh’s 96 was the cornerstone of the innings that was set up by David Warner’s early blitzkrieg. The left-hander was the aggressor for a change in his stand with Marsh and the tone was set up there. Although he fell in the first Powerplay itself, the platform was laid for Marsh and the others to do their bit. Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne also produced fifties, the latter’s being a vital one as it came in the backdrop of a mini-collapse. Smith looked in prime touch, as did Marsh with both batters making full use of the good early batting conditions.
Australia were 215/1 at one stage, looking set for a score in excess of 375, if not 400. However, the surface slowed down a touch and wasn’t as easy to score off against the older ball. With the dimensions of the ground also being bigger than Indore, the Indian bowlers managed to pull things back in the middle overs. Jasprit Bumrah bowled a brilliant second spell although he eventually ended up with his joint most expensive figures in the ODI format. That comeback from India briefly gave them hopes of restricting Australia to a 320-330 score but Labuschagne anchored the innings to a very strong score. With a slowing pitch and lack of batting depth, India needed their top order to go big but that wasn’t to be.
Australia 352/7 in 50 overs (Mitchell Marsh 96, Steve Smith 74, Marnus Labuschagne 72; Jasprit Bumrah 3-81) beat India 286 in 49.4 overs (Rohit Sharma 81, Virat Kohli 56; Glenn Maxwell 4-40) by 66 runs
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