Mon, 04 Dec 2023

Washington, DC [US], September 20 (ANI): Five Americans who were freed from Iranian detention as part of a wider deal with Tehran, landed in the United States, CNN has reported.

They returned to US soil on early Tuesday, following an initial stop in Doha, Qatar, the media outlet reported citing two US officials.

Notably, all five Americans had been designated by the US as"wrongfully detained", and were freed as part of a wider deal that includes the US unfreezing USD 6 billion in Iranian funds.

The five US citizens landed at Fort Belvoir's Davison Army Airfield and received an emotional reunion with their families. They were seen greeting and hugging their family members after seeing their loved ones, after losing all hopes of returning to their homeland.

The release of the Americans brings to an end a years-long nightmare for those who had been detained. Three of those who are part of the deal- Emad Shargi, Morad Tahbaz and Siamak Namazi - 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, according to CNN.

Under the deal, USD 6 billion in Iranian funds that had been held in restricted accounts in South Korea were transferred to restricted accounts in banks in Qatar.

The funds came from oil sales that were allowed and placed into accounts set up under the Trump administration, CNN reported citing sources.

However, Biden administration officials have stressed that the funds can be used by Iran only for humanitarian purchases and that each transaction will be monitored by the US Treasury Department.

The agreement also involved the release of five Iranians in US custody. Two of the five Iranians had served a majority of their sentences; the other three were awaiting trial and had not yet been convicted, as per a senior administration official.

According to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, two of the Iranians were returning to Iran, one was expected to leave for another country, and the other two were expected to remain in the US. Those who are remaining in the US do not pose a national security risk, CNN reported citing US officials.

President Joe Biden celebrated the release of the five Americans"after enduring years of agony, uncertainty, and suffering" a statement said.

The US President thanked"partners at home and abroad for their tireless efforts to help us achieve this outcome, including the Governments of Qatar, Oman, Switzerland, and South Korea."However, senior Republican Party officials criticized the agreement. Former Vice President Mike Pence- under whose tenure the White House made two prisoner swap deals with Tehran - criticized Biden for allowing Iran to "foment terrorism across the Middle East." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the administration of "incentivizing Tehran's bad behaviour," CNN reported.

Notably, following the release of the Americans, the US issued new sanctions against Iran targeting Tehran's Ministry of Intelligence and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, senior administration officials said.

It seeks to punish them for a lack of answers around Bob Levinson, an American detained in Iran for more than a decade who is believed to have died there.

"We'll never give up on Bob Levinson's case," CNN quoted an official as saying. (ANI)

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