Five Americans formerly imprisoned in Iran fled Iran as part of a deal with the U.S. government that included the forfeiture of approximately $6 billion in assets in Iran and the release of five people imprisoned in Iran who were in the United States.
The Biden administration confirmed to The Associated Press that five Americans—Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, Morad Tahbaz, and two unknown individuals — departed Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport on Monday. Five people left Iran shortly after Iranian Central Bank Governor Mohammad Farzin admitted to receiving $5.9 billion in assets previously frozen in South Korea.
Another Biden official told CNN that the US Treasury Department will monitor how Iran spends money from oil revenues, after suggesting in the past that the money was used only for humanitarian purposes. This swap involves five Iranian prisoners in the United States, including Kaveh Afrasiabi, Mehrdad Ansair, Amin Hassanzadeh, Reza Kafrani, and Kambiz Kashani; Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said on Monday that two others, including Afrasiabi, would also be involved.
President Joe Biden, who warned American citizens not to travel to Iran, congratulated the change and called on the Iranian government to make a “full accounting” of what happened in the trial of former FBI agent Bob Levinson, who disappeared in 2007. In 2007, Iran announced that it would impose sanctions on former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence for their role in illegal detention.
Negotiations between the United States and Iran have been ongoing for months, according to ABC News. Sanctions limiting Iran’s trade with the United States and its allies date back to 1979 when the US-Iran government was overthrown in a coup, but relations have continued since the United States withdrew from the 2018 nuclear deal with Iran and other countries.
The prisoner exchange followed months of tensions between US Marines, warplanes and warships in the Persian Gulf. The White House confirmed that five Americans imprisoned in Iran would be released by the end of the month, noting that “negotiations for their eventual release are ongoing and necessary.”
Prisoner Swaps With Iran
The United States is also negotiating other prisoner swaps with Iran, including a 2016 deal that allowed for the release of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and four Americans. The United States also negotiated a prisoner swap with Russia last year, which included the exchange of WNBA star Britney Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, despite Russia’s objections. Ukraine has been away from bilateral relations for a long time.
Ansari and Kefrani were sentenced to 63 months and 30 months in prison, respectively, while three others, called foreign representatives on behalf of Iran, are awaiting trial on charges such as stealing unwritten engineering plans. Three Americans were sentenced to 10 years in prison for crimes committed in Iran, but US officials said the prison sentence was “unfair and unjust.” They were released last month and remain under house arrest.