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Five Americans released in prisoner swap with Iran
Five imprisoned Americans were expected to be released by Iran on Monday and were due to fly out of Iran via Doha, Qatar to Washington, D.C., along with two of their family members.
The seven Americans expected to depart Iran on a Qatari government plane as part of the deal include businessman Siamak Namazi, 51, who has been imprisoned in Iran’s Evin prison for eight years; businessman Emad Shargi, 59; British-born businessman and wildlife conservationist Morad Tahbaz, 67, both also held in Evin; as well as two other Iranian American individuals whose families did not yet wish their names to be publicly released. In addition, Siamak Namazi’s mother, Effie Namazi, and Morad Tahbaz’s wife, Vida Tahbaz, were expected to be allowed to leave Iran with their loved ones.
As part of the painstakingly negotiated arrangement, mediated with the assistance of Qatar over the past several months, five Iranian nationals charged in the United States for non-violent offenses were due to receive clemency. In addition, six billion dollars in Iranian funds held in bank accounts in South Korea were transferred to a bank account in Qatar, where the funds can be used for humanitarian, non-sanctionable transactions, such as food and medicine.
President Joe Biden, currently in New York for the opening session of the UN General Assembly, was expected to release a statement early Monday on developments.
Both US hostage envoy Roger Carstens and acting US Special Envoy for Iran Abram Paley were on hand in Doha on Monday to receive the released Americans. The plan was for a brief stop over in Doha before flying to Washington.
U.S. officials said the release of the five wrongfully detained Americans will make their families whole after years of torment, but does not change the trajectory of U.S. relations with Iran.
As a signal of that, the United States was expected to sanction two additional Iranian entities on Monday, including on Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. They would be just the latest in some four hundred Iranian sanction designations the Biden administration has issued since it came into office in 2021 seeking to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Trump quit in 2018. But that hasn’t happened, and U.S. officials indicated they had no expectations for direct talks with Iran on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly getting underway in New York this week, which both Biden and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will be attending.
(Post will be updated with developments)