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Amid nuclear talks, Iran still trying to swap prisoners

US officials say there is no equivalence between Americans detained in Iran and Iranians jailed in the United States, and that the issue is separate from slow-moving nuclear talks.
Iranian-American Amir Mirza Hekmati, who has been sentenced to death by Iran's Revolutionary Court on the charge of spying for the CIA,  stands in this undated still image taken from video in an undisclosed location made available to Reuters TV on January 9, 2012. Iran's Revolutionary Court has sentenced an Iranian-American man to death for spying for the CIA, the student news agency quoted a judiciary official as saying. Hekmati, a 28-year-old of Iranian descent born in the southwestern U.S. state of Arizo

There are numerous theories about why Iran keeps jailing Iranian-Americans, including hard-line efforts to undercut the administration of President Hassan Rouhani. Another motive, however, has been clear at least since the days of Rouhani's predecessor: seeking to trade detainees for Iranians in US custody.

Last week, the family of Amir Hekmati, an Iranian-American ex-Marine imprisoned in Iran since visiting relatives there in 2011, released a letter sent by Hekmati to Rouhani. “For the past three years, my family has been receiving emails and phone calls from individuals in Iran proposing prisoner exchanges, going so far as asking my family to lobby publicly for the release of these individuals,” the letter said.

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