Five Americans detained in Iran expected to be freed as part of deal to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian funds
Sep 18, 2023, 7:01 AM | Updated: 7:09 am
(Siamak Namazi/Neda Shargi/Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley)
Doha and Washington (CNN) — Five Americans who have been imprisoned in Iran are expected to be released Monday, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said, as part of a wider deal with the United States that includes the unfreezing of $6 billion in Iranian funds.
The US government has designated all five Americans as being wrongfully detained.
Speaking at a press conference which was shown on state-affiliated Press TV on Monday, foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said the release “will hopefully be completed” alongside the other elements of the deal.
The detainees have arrived at an airport in Tehran and are due to be flown on a Qatari jet to Doha, a source briefed on details of the matter told CNN on Monday afternoon local time.
The release of the Americans would bring to an end a years-long nightmare for those who had been detained. Three of those who are believed to be part of the deal – Emad Shargi, Morad Tahbaz, and Siamak Namazi – have all been imprisoned for more than five years. Namazi has been detained since 2015. The identities of the other two Americans are not publicly known.
Under the agreement between the US and Iran, $6 billion in Iranian funds that had been held in restricted accounts in South Korea would be transferred to restricted accounts in banks in Qatar. Iranian and US officials have been notified by Qatar that the money has been transferred from Switzerland to bank accounts in Qatar, according to a source briefed on details of the matter.
Sources told CNN the funds came from oil sales that were allowed and placed into accounts set up under the Trump administration. Biden administration officials have stressed that the funds that have been transferred to the accounts in Qatar will only be able to be used by Iran for humanitarian purchases and each transaction will be monitored by the US Treasury Department.
The agreement, which has already prompted criticism from Republicans, also involves the release of five Iranians in US custody.
The deal, if completed successfully, would represent a significant diplomatic breakthrough after years of complicated indirect negotiations between Washington and Tehran.
The overall contours of the release protest began to crystallize in Doha about seven months ago after years of indirect negotiations. The first tangible public steps under the deal took place about five weeks ago, when four of the Americans were transferred into house arrest. The fifth American was already under house arrest.
Namazi is a dual Iranian-US citizen. His father, Baquer Namazi, was released in order to receive medical treatment in October 2022 after more than six years in detention in Iran.
Shargi, a businessman, and Tahbaz, an environmentalist, were first arrested in 2018. They too are dual Iranian-US citizens.
In March, in an unprecedented interview with CNN from inside Evin Prison, Namazi made an emotional plea to President Joe Biden to put the “liberty of innocent Americans above politics” and ramp up efforts to secure his release.
Namazi’s family, as well as the Shargi and Tahbaz families, had made urgent calls for the Biden administration to intensify efforts to bring their loved ones home.
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