While the issue of US-Iran relations is often marked by tension, news of the release of two innocent men is a welcome respite. 

My client, Dr. Masoud Soleimani, was arrested and imprisoned over a year ago for alleged US sanctions violations. More specifically, he was arrested for trying to import synthetic growth hormones to be used solely for stem cell research purposes from the US to Iran.

Sanctions practitioners and legal experts across the field, including myself and my co-counsel Mr. Leonard Franco, as well as scientists worldwide were baffled as to why Dr. Soleimani was being criminally prosecuted and detained for this alleged violation. First, from a legal standpoint, the items at issue could be classified at medicine and were therefore permitted to be exported to Iran under the existing sanctions regulations. Second, even if the US government were to take the position that the items were not medicine, given the nature of the goods (the items had a shelf-life of 6 months and, as conceded by the US government, could not be used for any dangerous purpose or any purpose other than research) and their value (less than $10,000.00), this would be a case that would normally be handled on a civil or administrative level and NOT through criminal prosecution. Earlier this morning, all charges against Dr. Soleimani were dropped.

Similarly, Chinese American Xiyue Wang who was wrongfully detained and unjustly held in Iran for over three years on alleged espionage charges had all charges against him dropped and was also freed. Mr. Wang, a Princeton University PhD student, was arrested in August of 2016 when he traveled to Iran for research purposes. 

Today, due to the cooperation of the US and Iranian governments as well as the efforts of all parties on both sides, both Dr. Soleimani and Mr. Wang are free and on their way home. Although nothing can make up for the time they lost and the hardships of unjust imprisonment they endured, everyone involved is grateful that this ordeal has finally come to an end. 

First, and most importantly, because two innocent men who did not deserve to be imprisoned are now on their way home to be with their families where they belong. And second, this exchange shows the world that, through diplomacy and open dialogue, even two adversaries can reach an outcome that benefits everyone.

On a personal note, it was a true honor to represent Dr. Soleimani and to personally witness his strength of character and kindness of heart in even the most dreadful of circumstances. I hope that today will be the first of many good days for him and that he will soon be back where he belongs: in the hospital saving lives as he was doing before his arrest.

-Mehrnoush Yazdanyar, Esq.

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