Five Americans Freed by Iran in Prisoner Swap

Five Iranians freed in exchange, and $6B in Iranian funds are unfrozen
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2023 7:57 AM CDT
Updated Sep 18, 2023 8:24 AM CDT
Iran Says Prisoner Swap Is Expected to Happen Monday
In this Jan. 15, 2015, file photo, a Qatar Airways plane approaches the gate at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany.   (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)
UPDATE Sep 18, 2023 8:24 AM CDT

Five Americans held by Iran have been freed in a prisoner swap, reports the AP. A plane with all five aboard left Tehran on Monday. Three of the Americans have previously been named, and the remaining two wished to keep their identities private. Some have been held since at least 2015, per CNN, and the US says all five were wrongfully detained. In exchange, five Iranians will be released from US prisons, and the US also freed up $6 billion in once-frozen Iranian funds.

Sep 18, 2023 7:57 AM CDT

Looks like Monday may be the day for the prisoner swap between the United States and Iran. "It will happen today, and five prisoners, citizens of the Islamic Republic, will be released from the prisons in the US," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said in a news conference shown on state TV, whose feed was "cut immediately after his remarks without explanation," per the AP. "Five imprisoned citizens who were in Iran will be given to the US side reciprocally, based on their will." Kanaani added that two of the Iranian prisoners are expected to stay in the United States. There's been no confirmation of this news from Washington.

A source tells CNN that a plane from Qatar was waiting in Iran to bring the five Americans to Doha. Flight-tracking data shows that a Qatar Airways Airbus A320 did touch down Monday at Tehran's Mehrabad International Airport, where prisoner releases have taken place in the past, notes the AP. Kanaani also noted that the $6 billion in Iranian cash that had been frozen in South Korea has since been transferred to Qatar as part of the deal, which was signed off on earlier this month. The Biden administration says the released funds can only be used by Iran for humanitarian purposes, and that the US Treasury Department will be keeping tabs on each and every transaction.

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The New York Times notes the announcement comes ahead of President Biden and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi converging upon New York City for Tuesday's United Nations General Assembly meeting. Three of the Americans set to be released have been previously identified: Iranian-American Siamak Namazi, a businessman detained since 2015; Iranian-American Morad Tahbaz, who holds dual citizenship with the UK and has been detained since 2018; and Emad Shargi, an American who also holds Iranian citizenship and has been detained since 2018. The names of the other two Americans haven't yet been revealed. All that's known about the Iranians being detained in the US is that they're "mostly held over allegedly trying to export material to Iran," per the AP. (More Iran stories.)

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