The United States government confirmed that this Tuesday the five Americans who were detained in Iran landed in the country and were released as part of a prisoner exchange agreement between the Joe Biden government and that country.
Several of those detained were detained in Iran for more than 5 years. Despite his release, several Republican lawmakers criticized the deal, saying it amounted to a “ransom” payment and would only encourage Iran to imprison more foreigners.
As a first step in the prisoner exchange, the five Americans were placed under house arrest on August 10 and their release was conditional on the transfer of South Korea’s $6 billion in frozen oil revenues to Qatar’s central bank. Iran’s use of the released funds will be monitored by Qatar and restricted to the purchase of food, medicine or other items for humanitarian purposes, as permitted by US sanctions.
Despite the agreement, tensions are expected to remain between the US and Iran, which are embroiled in several disputes, including over the Iranian nuclear program. Iran maintains the program is for peaceful purposes, but its uranium enrichment is closer than ever to a war-grade level.
WHO ARE THE FREED AMERICANS
Siamak Prayer, 51, was imprisoned in Iran for nearly eight years, longer than any of the other current American detainees. A graduate of New York’s White Plains High School and a business consultant with degrees from Tufts and Rutgers universities, he was arrested in 2015 and convicted of espionage in a trial that lasted only a few hours. His father, Baquer Namazi, was detained in 2016 when he traveled to Iran to visit his son. The eldest Namazi was released in 2022.
Mothers Shargi, 59, an Iranian-born businessman from Washington, DC, who moved to the US as a young man, was arrested in April 2018. He was released on bail and acquitted of all charges in December 2019, but authorities Iranians refused to return his passport. He was charged again in 2020 and found guilty of espionage without trial.
Morad Tahbaz67, an Iranian-American who also has British citizenship, was arrested in January 2018 and convicted of espionage in 2019. Tahbaz was part of a group of environmental activists carrying out research into the endangered cheetah population in Iran.
The families of the other two freed Americans requested that their names be kept private.
The prisoner exchange did not include two legal permanent residents of the United States with green cards who remained behind bars in Tehran. One of them, Shahab Dalili, was arrested and jailed in 2016 while visiting Tehran for his father’s funeral, according to his family. His wife and children are American citizens living in Virginia. Recently, his son staged a sit-in for days in front of the State Department, demanding that his father be included in the swap.