Report: Azerbaijan Releases Men Jailed for Israel Embassy Bomb Plot

Two Lebanese men convicted of planning to blow up Israeli embassy in Baku released in prisoner swap with Iran.

Two Lebanese men convicted of conspiring to blow up the Israeli embassy in Baku may have been released in a prisoner swap between Azerbaijan and Iran. The weekend media reports were conflicting.

Last week, the Al-Arabiya satellite channel reported that Ali Hassin Najam Adin and Mohammed Karaki and 12 Iranians were swapped for two diplomats and an Azeri nuclear scientist, who were sent to Azerbaijan. A spokesman for the Azerbaijan prison service said Thursday that all 14 will continue serving their sentences there.

Meanwhile, the Trend news service in Iran quoted a figure from the Azerbaijan justice ministry, Zafar Gabarov, as saying his government released Iranian citizens who will continue serving their sentences in Iran, but denied Lebanese prisoners were released.

The two Lebanese were arrested in 2008, along with four local residents, on suspicions of security offenses. Last year, they were convicted of planning to blow up the Israeli embassy in Baku in revenge for the assassination of senior Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh. They also planned to destroy a strategically placed radar installation in the north of the country and were convicted of spying for Iran.

The two Lebanese were sentenced to 15 years in prison, while the locals received eight to 14 years in prison. Their release reportedly reflected a deal that saw the release of an Azeri nuclear scientist, Rashid Alayev, convicted in Iran of espionage, and two Azeri diplomats convicted of drugs trafficking. Hezbollah did not comment on the exchange.

Imad Mughniyeh