Five Americans released in Iran in exchange for US prisoners | Albiseyler

Five Americans released in Iran in exchange for US prisoners
  • By Bernd Debusmann Jr
  • BBC news

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Family members hug two of the five freed Americans after they arrived at Fort Belvoir, USA

A plane carrying five Americans imprisoned in Iran for years has landed in the US after a controversial prisoner swap.

They landed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, south of Washington, DC, on Tuesday morning.

They had previously flown from Tehran to Doha, where they were transferred to a plane bound for the US.

The final part of the deal took place on Monday, when $6bn (£4.8bn) in Iranian cash – held in South Korea – was sent to banks in Doha.

The released prisoners are dual Iranian-American citizens. Five Iranians were also released from US custody, and of these five, three chose not to return to Iran.

The plane carrying the five Americans landed at Davison Army Airfield shortly before 05:30 local time (09:30 GMT) and was met on the tarmac by emotional and tearful family members.

Friends and family waved small US flags as the group exited the plane.

“The nightmare is finally over,” said Siamak Namazi, a relative of one of the freed Americans. “We haven’t had this moment in over eight years. It’s unbelievable.”

“(It’s) the beginning of a very long road to recovery and healing,” the family representative added.

Also on board the plane were two family members, US presidential envoy Roger Carstens and Abram Paley, deputy special envoy for Iran. Both met with the released detainees in Doha.

In brief remarks at Fort Belvoir, Mr. Carstens encouraged former detainees to take advantage of the “post-isolation support” offered by the U.S. military and expressed confidence that they would “continue to fight to bring more Americans home.”

U.S. officials have long argued that the five detainees in Iran were wrongfully imprisoned for political leverage.

The Americans include 51-year-old businessman Mr Namazi – who spent almost eight years in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison – as well as businessman Emad Shargi, 59, and 67-year-old environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, who also holds British citizenship.

image source, anyhopefornature/FreetheNamazis/NedaSharghi

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US says Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz and Emad Shargi jailed on baseless charges

Two other inmates did not want to be named.

The five Iranians released under the deal were mostly imprisoned in the US on charges of violating US sanctions.

US President Joe Biden welcomed the prisoner swap in a statement on Monday, saying Americans would be reunited with their loved ones “after years of suffering, uncertainty and suffering”.

At the same time, Biden pledged to “continue to impose costs on Iran for its provocative actions in the region.”

“And as we welcome our fellow citizens home, I again remind all Americans of the serious risks of traveling to Iran,” he added. “US passport holders should not travel there”.

The president’s comments came as the US announced new sanctions targeting former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s intelligence ministry.

One of the released prisoners, Siamak Namazi, said in a statement that he “wouldn’t be free today if it weren’t for all of you who didn’t let the world forget me.”

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for being my voice when I couldn’t speak for myself and for making sure I was heard when I gathered the strength to scream from behind the impenetrable walls of Evin Prison,” he added. .

Iranian funds released under the deal were owed by South Korea to Tehran for oil purchased before Trump administration sanctions in 2019 banned such transactions. The US said the released funds could only be used for humanitarian purposes.

But the refund has sparked controversy in the US and has come under intense criticism from some of Mr Biden’s political opponents.

Several prominent Republicans have expressed concern that Iran will use the money to support proxy groups in the Middle East.

The US government played down these concerns. Last week, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the U.S. Treasury had “tight oversight” of the money and that Washington “has the ability to control its use.”

A senior administration official also told reporters that the US would move to block the funds if Iran tried to divert them or use them for non-humanitarian purposes.

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Watch: The moment five Americans freed from Iran cross paths in Qatar

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