Wed. Oct 4th, 2023
    Five Americans Released from Iranian Prison in Prisoner Exchange Deal

    Five Americans who were wrongfully imprisoned in Iran have been released as part of a prisoner exchange agreement, according to a senior diplomat in the region. Their release comes as Tehran gains access to $6 billion in oil revenues that were previously frozen under U.S. sanctions. The Americans, along with two of their relatives, have departed from Iran and are on their way to Qatar, which aided in brokering the swap. In return, five Iranian nationals held by the United States were also expected to be released.

    While the prisoner release is a cause for celebration for the families involved, some Republican lawmakers have criticized the deal, referring to it as a “ransom” payment that may encourage Iran to continue imprisoning foreigners. However, the families of the freed Americans maintain that their loved ones were hostages held on false charges and used as bargaining chips by the Iranian government.

    Among the Americans released is Siamak Namazi, who had been imprisoned for nearly eight years, making him the longest-serving American detainee in Iran. Namazi’s father, Baquer Namazi, who was also imprisoned, was released last year. Emad Shargi, an Iranian-born businessman, and Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian American, were also among those released. The identities of the two other Americans, upon the request of their families, have not been disclosed.

    Human rights groups have accused Iran of engaging in hostage-taking for years, using foreign prisoners as a means to manipulate other governments. They argue that the espionage charges brought against the American prisoners were baseless. Iran, however, denies these allegations and asserts that all prisoners are treated in accordance with its laws.

    While the prisoner exchange marks a positive development, two American legal permanent residents with green cards remain behind bars in Tehran. Their exclusion from the swap has sparked pleas for their release from their families. Shahab Dalili, a U.S. resident arrested in 2016 while attending his father’s funeral, and Jamshid Sharmahd, a German citizen kidnapped in 2020, continue to be held captive in Iran.

    As part of the prisoner exchange agreement, the released Americans were placed under house arrest in August, with their freedom contingent on the transfer of $6 billion in frozen oil revenues from South Korea to Qatar’s central bank. The use of these funds by Iran will be overseen by Qatar and limited to humanitarian purposes, such as the purchase of food and medicine. The U.S. Treasury Department will monitor the transactions, warning that the funds may be frozen again if Iran violates U.S. sanctions.

    Source: NBC News, Al Jazeera, BBC News