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Prisoners

Americans Moved Out of Tehran Prison in Deal that Could Release of Iranian prisoners, Frozen Funds

August 11, 2023
2 min read
Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi and Morad Tahbaz are said to be among the five Iranian-Americans transferred from Tehran’s Evin Prison to house arrest
Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi and Morad Tahbaz are said to be among the five Iranian-Americans transferred from Tehran’s Evin Prison to house arrest

The United States and Iran have reportedly reached a deal to win the freedom of five Iranian-Americans held in Tehran in exchange for several jailed Iranians and access to billions of dollars in Iranian oil revenue.

As a first step in the reported agreement, Iranian authorities have transferred five Iranian American citizens from Tehran’s Evin Prison to house arrest, the lawyer for one of the prisoners said on August 10.

Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council, acknowledged the prisoners’ transfer and described the negotiations for their release as “ongoing” and delicate.”

“While this is an encouraging step, these US citizens...should have never been detained in the first place,” she said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor their condition as closely as possible. Of course, we will not rest until they are all back home in the United States.”

The Islamic Republic in past months has overstated progress in talks on a potential prisoner swap.

“The move by Iran of the American hostages from Evin Prison to house arrest is an important development,” said Jared Genser, the US-based lawyer for Siamak Namazi, one of the released Americans. “While I hope this will be the first step to their ultimate release, this is at best the beginning of the end and nothing more. But there are simply no guarantees about what happens from here.”

The five likely will be held at a hotel under guard until they possibly leave Iran, Genser said in a statement. 

In addition to Namazi, the prisoners include Emad Sharghi and Morad Tahbaz, who had all been sentenced to 10 years in prison on unsubstantiated charges of spying, as well as two others whose families withheld their names. One of the unnamed prisoners is a scientist, and the other is a businessman, two people briefed on the arrangements of the release told The New York Times.

US officials did not comment or confirm details about what Tehran will get in return for the Americans’ release from captivity. 

But people familiar with the agreement were cited as saying that when the Americans are allowed to return to the United States, the Biden administration will release a number of Iranian nationals serving prison sentences for violating sanctions on Iran.

The United States will also transfer nearly $6 billion in Iranian assets tied up in South Korean banks, frozen due to international sanctions on Tehran, and put the funds into an account in the central bank of Qatar, they said.

This account will be controlled by the Qatari government and regulated so Tehran can gain access to the money only to pay vendors for humanitarian purchases such as medicine and food.

Western governments have repeatedly accused the Islamic Republic of taking dual and foreign nationals hostage for the sole purpose of using them in prisoner swaps or as a bargaining chip in international negotiations.

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