On Thursday, Western Journalism published evidence the Obama administration had secretly paid a $400 million cash ransom for the release of four American hostages in January, citing a Powerline report that said that the payment was a result of secret negotiations about the release of Americans imprisoned in Iran in November 2014 and quoted an Iranian general who had told local media that the payment was ransom for the release of “American spies.”
The money was brought to Iran in pallets that were stacked with Euros, Swiss francs and other currencies, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The Obama administration has vehemently denied the payment was related to the release of the hostages. Instead, the administration insisted the money was the first payment of the transfer of $1.7 billion to Iran as part of a settlement for the failed delivery of U.S. fighter jets that were ordered before the Islamic Revolution in 1979 that toppled the regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
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Thursday’s episode of Fox Business Network’s Intelligence Report with Trish Regan delivered what has been described by Iran watchers as the “smoking gun” — evidence the administration lied and the payment was indeed ransom for the four hostages.
To resolve the discussion about whether the money was indeed ransom, experts have been trying to nail down the timing of the two relevant flights — the plane that transferred the money and the one that carried the hostages to Switzerland.
If the hostages were held until the money arrived, it would strongly suggest the administration has been misleading the press and the public about the payment being unrelated to the hostages.
Here’s what Pastor Saeed Abedini, one of the four hostages released in January, told Trish Regan.
ABEDINI: I just remember the night that we’ve been in an airport – you know – just take hours and hours there. And I asked one of the intelligence police heads that was with us – that why we were not letting us to go to the (inaudible) plane and he told me we are waiting for another plane. And if that plane takes off then we are going to let you go.
REGAN: So did they actually take you out of the prison that you were in? And I want to get to the conditions that you had to live through in just a moment, but they took you out of your prison and brought you to an airport?
ABEDINI: Yeah we were at the airport for a night and you know they told us –
REGAN: – so you slept there at the airport?
ABEDINI: Yes for a night. And, you know, they told us you are going to be there for 20 minutes but it took like hours and hours. We slept at the airport and when I asked them why you don’t let us go – because the plane was there, pilot was there, everyone was ready that we leave the country – they said we are waiting for another plane. And until that plane doesn’t come we never let you go.
REGAN: So eventually another plane came, and did they then put you on that plane or were they just waiting for that plane, and I think you know where I am going with this, were they effectively waiting for the money to come in before they then let you take off?
ABEDINI: Yeah they didn’t talk about money they just told us about – they told me – about the plane. And you know the plane of Prime Minister of Switzerland was already in Iran, which you know we came back with that plane actually – so their reason that they said you are here in the airport was just because we were waiting for another plane.
REGAN: Okay so what happened did the other plane eventually land or did it land at another airport somewhere else?
ABEDINI: After that they never told anything to me and I didn’t see anything, you know –
REGAN: So do you have any idea how many hours you actually waited for this other plane?
ABEDINI: For a night. You know we went to the airport I think it was like 2, 3pm and we waited there for a whole night. And we, you know, fly back I think the day after at 10 in the morning.
The State Department now insists it cannot give specifics on the timing of the two flights.
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When AP reporter Matt Lee asked if the plane with the money landed before or after the plane carrying the prisoners left Tehran for Geneva, spokesman Marc Toner said, “I don’t believe we’ve gotten clarity on that as well, either. In terms of timing, I don’t have it.”