Five Americans freed in Iran prisoner swap arrive back in U.S.

Five Americans who were released after being wrongfully imprisoned in Iran for years have arrived back on U.S. soil.

A aircraft carrying the 5 Americans and two of their kinfolk touched down at a navy airfield close to Washington, D.C. early Tuesday. They had flown from the Gulf state of Qatar, which helped facilitate the switch.

The group had been freed as a part of a prisoner exchange agreement that allowed Tehran to entry $6 billion in oil revenues frozen underneath U.S. sanctions and likewise noticed 5 Iranian nationals launched from U.S. custody.

The uncommon, high-stakes deal comes regardless of heightened tensions between the 2 international locations over a spread of points together with Iran’s uranium enrichment program and crackdown on inside dissent — the weekend marked a 12 months since Mahsa Amini’s demise sparked a wave of home unrest.

NBC News first reported on the prisoner swap negotiations in February. 

From left, Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi and Morad Tahbaz arriving in Doha. Lujain Jo / AP

Siamak Namazi, 51, was imprisoned for nearly eight years, the longest stretch of the 5 American prisoners. He was arrested in 2015 on expenses of espionage and convicted in a trial that lasted just a few hours.

Emad Shargi, 59, an Iranian-born businessman who moved to the U.S. as a younger man, was arrested in 2018. Despite being launched and cleared of all expenses in 2019, Iranian authorities retained his passport, earlier than he was charged once more in 2020 and convicted of espionage expenses with no trial.

A 3rd former prisoner, Morad Tahbaz, 67, is an Iranian-American who additionally has British citizenship. Part of a bunch of environmental activists finishing up analysis on Iran’s endangered cheetah inhabitants, he was arrested in 2018 and convicted of espionage in 2019.

The households of the 2 different former prisoners have requested that their identities stay non-public, U.S. officers mentioned.

Human rights teams accuse Iran of charging the prisoners with espionage with none basis — however Iran says they had been handled in accordance with the regulation.

The deal comes as President Joe Biden and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will attend the annual gathering of world leaders for the United Nations General Assembly in New York later Tuesday.

Biden has come underneath criticism from Republicans for agreeing to a deal they are saying quantities to a “ransom” cost that can possible solely encourage Tehran to imprison extra foreigners. 

The administration has maintained that Iran will solely be permitted to make use of the funds unblocked by the U.S. for medication, meals or different humanitarian purchases. 

But Raisi informed NBC News’ Lester Holt in an exclusive interview that Tehran will resolve find out how to spend the $6 billion. The cash can be spent “wherever we need it,” he mentioned.

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