Mon, 02 Oct 2023

Tehran [Iran], September 18 (ANI): Iran has released five imprisoned Americans who, the US government claimed, were wrongfully detained and are now on a flight out of the country, CNN reported on Monday.

Quoting a senior Biden administration official, CNN reported that the release of prisoners is of a wider deal that includes the US unfreezing $6 billion in Iranian funds.

According to CNN, the prisoners are being flown on a Qatari government jet to Doha which left an airport Tehran on Monday afternoon local time. Two relatives of the detainees are also on board, along with the Qatari ambassador to Tehran.

As per CNN, the released people include Emad Shargi, Morad Tahbaz, and Siamak Namazi- who had all been imprisoned for more than five years. Namazi had been detained since 2015. The identities of the other two Americans are not publicly known.

Siamak Namazi's mother Effie Namazi and Morad Tahbaz's wife Vida Tahbaz - who were previously unable to leave Iran - were also on the flight from Iran to Doha, a second senior Biden administration official said.

After stopping in the Qatari capital, they will travel on to the Washington, DC, area to be reunited with their families, the official said.

The United States and Iran will each free five prisoners under an agreement that also involves the transfer of $6bn of frozen Iranian assets from South Korea.

Earlier, it was known that five Americans who had been imprisoned in Iran had been placed under house arrest. The development is the first step in a deal between the United States and Iran that would include making USD 6 billion in Iranian funds more accessible to Tehran in exchange for their return to the US, CNN reported.

The Permanent Mission of Iran to the United Nations in a statement said that"as part of a humanitarian cooperation agreement mediated by a third-party government, Iran and the US have agreed to reciprocally release and pardon five prisoners."Four of the Americans which include Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz have been moved out of Tehran's Evin Prison, CNN reported citing the White House. The fifth American who has not been identified publicly has also been placed under house arrest, CNN cited a source familiar with the negotiations.

The source called the development an "encouraging step" and stressed that there's "a roadmap that has basically been agreed." However, they said that "there's a number of things here that still need to be worked out" in the prospective deal for Americans' return to the US, according to CNN.

The roadmap includes plans to make USD 6 billion in Iranian funds that have been in a restricted account in South Korea more available for"non-sanctionable trade" of goods like food and medicine by moving them to "a restricted account elsewhere."According to the source, the decision will not provide new funds to Iran. However, Iran will be able to use those funds that are currently in South Korean accounts for humanitarian purposes and non-sanctionable trade. The source said there is also expected to be a prisoner swap component to the deal.

The source said, "No prisoners held in the US will be released in exchange for these Americans moving to house arrest." They called the transfer of these prisoners out of prison a "significant initial step in the implementation of this agreement," according to CNN.

Jared Genser, the pro-bono counsel for Namazi, strongly cautioned against being overly optimistic regarding the freedom of Americans until they come out of Iran. He said, "There are simply no guarantees about what happens from here," CNN reported.

Namazi, the longest-held American in Iran, was arrested in 2015 when he was on a business trip. He was charged with having"relations with a hostile state," referring to the US. He is a dual Iranian-US citizen.

Shargi, a businessman, and Tahbaz, an environmentalist, were first arrested in 2018. They are also dual Iranian-US citizens. The US State Department said that all three have been wrongfully detained.

Namazi, who had been left behind in a deal under the Obama administration said, "I remain deeply worried that the White House just doesn't appreciate how dire our situation has become." The families of Namazi, Shargi and Tahbaz had made urgent calls to the Biden administration to bolster their efforts to bring their loved ones back to the US, as per the CNN report. (ANI)

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