Americans detained for years in Iran arrive in the United States after their release. Follow the latest


WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans detained for years in Iran returned home Tuesday, tearfully hugged their loved ones and declared “Freedom!” after It is being abandoned as part of a politically risky deal This saw President Joe Biden agree to release nearly $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets.

The prisoners arrived at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, with applause and cheers heard in the predawn hours. Siamak Namazi, the first to get off the plane, stopped for a moment, closed his eyes and took a deep breath before leaving the plane. Their loved ones, some carrying small American flags, hugged them and exchanged greetings in English and Persian, Iran’s main language.

“The nightmare is finally over,” Namazi’s brother, Babak, said at the airport.

“We have not lived this moment for more than eight years,” he added, putting his arm around his previously detained brother and father, Baqir, who was released earlier by Iran. “It’s unbelievable.”

Later, the former prisoners took a group photo with their families, chanting: “Freedom!”

The successful negotiations for Americans’ freedom brought the Bidens many thanks from their families, but intense criticism from Republican presidential rivals and others opposed to a critical arrangement with one of America’s biggest adversaries.

“Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran finally returned home,” the Democratic president said in a statement issued as the plane carrying the group from Tehran landed in Doha, Qatar, on Monday.

Hard-line Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi United Nations General Assembly in New YorkHe pointed out that the exchange may be “a step in the direction of humanitarian action between us and America.”

“It can definitely help build confidence,” Raisi told reporters.

but, Tensions will almost certainly remain high Between the United States and Iran, which are locked in disputes over Tehran’s nuclear program and other issues. Iran says the program is peaceful, but it is now enriching uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.

From left, Morad Tahbaz, Siamak Namazi and Imad Sharqi walk side by side from the Qatar Airways flight that took them from Tehran to Doha, Qatar, on Monday. (AP Photo/Lejin Guo)

The prisoners were released amid a large US military buildup in the Persian Gulf, with the possible presence of US forces Boarding and guarding merchant ships In the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of total oil shipments pass.

After the plane slowed to a stop in Doha, three prisoners appeared – Siamak Namazi, Imad Sharqi, and Murad Tahbaz.

They hugged the US ambassador to Qatar, Timmy Davis, and others. The three then threw their arms around each other’s shoulders and headed toward the airport.

“I would not be free today if all of you had not allowed the world to forget me,” Namazi said in a statement issued on his behalf.

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

The United States did not immediately identify the other Americans released. They were all released in exchange for the release of five Iranians detained by the United States, and in exchange for a deal for frozen Iranian assets owed to South Korea. The Biden administration said that the five released Iranians do not pose any threat to US national security.

Also on board were two family members of imprisoned Americans, Effie Namazi and Vida Tahbaz, who were subject to a travel ban in Iran.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said that two Iranian prisoners will remain in the United States. Meanwhile, Noor News, a website believed to be close to Iranian security services, said that two Iranian prisoners were in Doha for the swap.

Noor News identified the two in Doha as: Mehrdad Ansari, an Iranian who was sentenced by the United States to 63 months in prison in 2021 for obtaining equipment that could be used in missiles, electronic warfare, nuclear weapons and other military equipment, and Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani. An Iranian was charged in 2021 for allegedly illegally exporting laboratory equipment to Iran.

The $5.9 billion in cash released to Iran represents money South Korea owes Iran — but has not yet paid — for oil purchased before the United States imposed sanctions on such transactions in 2019.

The United States asserts that once the funds reach Qatar, the funds will be held in restricted accounts to be used only for humanitarian goods, such as medicine and food. These transactions are currently permitted under US sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic over its advanced nuclear programme.

Iranian government officials have largely agreed, although some hardliners have insisted, without evidence, that there will be no limits on how Tehran spends money.

The deal is already done Opening Biden to new criticism From Republicans and others who say the administration is helping boost Iran’s economy at a time when Iran poses a growing threat to U.S. forces and their allies in the Middle East. This could have implications for his re-election campaign.

Former President Donald Trump, currently the leading Republican contender in that race, called it a “completely ridiculous” deal on the social media site Truth Social. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Biden of “rewarding and incentivizing Tehran’s bad behavior.”

Biden made what the White House described as an emotional phone call with the families of the released Americans after their release.

In his statement, Biden demanded more information about what happened to American Bob Levinson She disappeared years ago. The Biden administration also announced the imposition of new sanctions on former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence.

The US government, families of prisoners, and activists have denounced the charges against the five Americans, describing them as baseless.

The Americans included Namazi, who was arrested in 2015 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison on espionage charges; Sharqi, venture capitalist, sentenced to 10 years in prison; Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent, was arrested in 2018 and also sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Nada, Sharqi’s sister, said in a statement that she “can’t wait to hug my brother and never let him go.”

She added: “This is my brother, not abstract politics.” “We are talking about human lives. There is nothing partisan about saving the lives of innocent Americans, and today should be a moment of American unity as we welcome them home.”

Iran and the United States have a history of prisoner exchanges dating back to the US Embassy takeover and hostage crisis following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.


Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Joe from Doha, Qatar. Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi and Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Matthew Lee, Paul Haven, Aamer Madhani, and Michelle Phillips in New York; Eric Tucker and Farnoush Amiri from Washington contributed to the preparation of this report.

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