Five American citizens who had been imprisoned in Iran have successfully returned to the United States following their release, as part of a negotiated prisoner exchange orchestrated by the Biden administration with Tehran.
A plane, carrying the five former prisoners along with two of their family members, touched down at a Virginia military facility just outside Washington at approximately 5:30 am ET on Tuesday, according to a U.S. official. While only three of the five released prisoners have been publicly identified—Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi, and Morad Tahbaz—all three are dual Iranian citizens. The identities of the remaining two Americans have been kept confidential at their request.
Siamak Namazi, a 51-year-old businessman, had been arrested in 2015 during a visit to his family in Tehran. Emad Sharghi, aged 59, was detained in 2018, a year after relocating to Iran from the U.S. to work for a tech investment company. Morad Tahbaz, aged 67, who also holds British citizenship, was arrested in 2018 while involved in a conservation project in Iran.
Accompanying the prisoners on their return were the wives of Namazi and Tahbaz, both of whom had previously been unable to leave Iran. The group of Americans had arrived from Doha, Qatar, after departing from Tehran. The prisoner exchange also involved the release of $6 billion in frozen Iranian oil revenues by the Biden administration, as well as the liberation of five Iranians who had been charged or convicted of non-violent offenses in the United States, as confirmed by U.S. officials.
Among the five Iranians who were freed, two had been convicted of non-violent crimes, while the remaining three were awaiting trial and had not yet been convicted, according to two senior Biden administration officials. The exchange was the result of several months of indirect negotiations between U.S. and Iranian officials. However, it remains uncertain whether this swap will have a substantial impact on the long-standing tensions between the United States and Iran, as it is not formally linked to the stalled nuclear talks between the two nations.
Additionally, the prisoner exchange has stirred controversy and placed President Joe Biden at odds with congressional Republicans, who have criticized it and characterized it as tantamount to paying a ransom to terrorists. This development has also provided ammunition for Biden’s political adversaries.