5 Americans freed by Iran return to US

5 Americans freed by Iran return to US
Joy among families of freed Iranian-Americans

NOS newsEdited

Five Iranian-Americans freed by Iran in a highly publicized prisoner swap have arrived in the United States. The plane landed at a military airfield near Washington DC at about a quarter to five in the morning (local time).

The identities of the three freed Americans have been released. They are two businessmen Siamak Namasi (51), Emat Sharqi (59) and environmental activist Morad Dahbas (67). Namasi was arrested in Iran in 2015, while the other two were arrested in 2018. All three were charged with espionage. The identities of the fourth and fifth released inmates have not been released at the request of their families.

The deal is Qatar and has been negotiated for months. The representatives of the two countries sat in separate hotels some distance from each other, with intermediaries constantly passing back and forth. Washington severed diplomatic ties with Tehran in 1980 after it attacked and occupied the US Embassy in the Iranian capital.

Qatar has expressed hope that the US and Iran will resume talks on issues such as Iran’s nuclear program. But analysts are skeptical and do not expect the prisoner exchange to lead to a diplomatic breakthrough. Three out of five Iranians released from prison in the US have decided not to return to Iran.

New obstacles

A condition for this prisoner exchange was that the US would release $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets. Money was tied up in South Korea, which buys a lot of oil from Iran. The prisoner exchange was able to continue after money was transferred from Seoul to accounts in the Qatari capital Doha.

According to the agreement, freed Iranian funds must be spent on humanitarian aid and not on Iran’s nuclear program and potential development of nuclear weapons.

After the prisoner exchange, the US immediately announced new sanctions against Iran, targeting the country’s former president Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. It is not stated what kind of obstacles they are. The wrongful detention of Robert Levinson and the lack of answers surrounding the case led President Biden to announce new sentencing measures.

The retired FBI agent disappeared from the Iranian island of Kish in 2007. After a career with the FBI, Levinson began working as a private investigator. Iran has always said the country had nothing to do with his disappearance, and the Americans say he was taken hostage by Iranian secret services and may have died in captivity.

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