‘The nightmare is over’: Iran releases Americans in exchange for prisoners

(Left to right) Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz and Emad Shargi are to be freed from prison under the deal

Five Americans who were held in prison in Iran for a long time, seen as hostages by many, are now returning to the United States.

The final part of a contentious exchange brokered by Qatar was completed when $6bn (£4. 8bn) of money from Iran that was being held in South Korea arrived at banks in Doha.

This made it possible for the four American men and one woman in Tehran, who are also Iranian citizens, to get on a flight to Qatar’s capital city.

Senior officials of the United States will meet with them and then they will be taken to Washington by plane.

It is said that three people from America are involved in this. One of them is Siamak Namazi, a 51-year-old businessman who has been in prison called Evin in Tehran for almost eight years. Another person is Emad Shargi, a 59-year-old businessman. There is also Morad Tahbaz, a 67-year-old environmentalist who has British citizenship too.

The US government has stated that its citizens were unjustly imprisoned on false accusations in order to gain political advantages.

In August, they were moved to a safe place in Tehran after they made an agreement.

Five Iranians who are currently in American prisons, mostly because they have broken US sanctions, will also be pardoned as part of this deal. Some of them may not go back to Iran.

Iran has given the names Reza Sarhangpour, Kambiz Attar Kashani, Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, Mehrdad Moein Ansari, and Amin Hasanzadeh.

Who are the people with citizenship in two countries who are currently in prison in Iran.

The thing that Americans have been very afraid of is finally finished. Professor Mehran Kamrava, who is originally from Iran but now teaches at Georgetown University in Qatar, described how difficult and disruptive solitary confinement can be. It involves not knowing what is happening and losing track of time. It greatly disrupts the normal flow of life.

The agreement happened after many months of discussions led by Qatar, which started in February of last year.

Someone who knows about the negotiations says that there were at least nine difficult discussions in Doha. The American and Iranian delegations stayed in different hotels. Senior officials from Qatar traveled back and forth between Tehran and Washington.

“I believe both sides benefit a little,” said Prof Kamrava to the BBC in Doha. Joe Biden is getting Americans back to their own country, and Iran is letting Iranians out of prison in the United States. But the most important thing is the six billion dollars that they are receiving.

Who are the people from America that were held in jail?

Morad Tahbaz was taken into custody in 2018 with eight other Iranian environmentalists. They were using cameras to follow very rare wild Asiatic cheetahs, but they were accused of using their environmental work as an excuse to gather secret information. The person said they didn’t do it, but they got put in jail for 10 years.

Siamak Namazi, who works in the oil industry and lives in Dubai, was taken into custody by the authorities in 2015. His old father, Baquer, was taken into custody the next year, after Iranian officials gave him permission to see his son. Both of them were sentenced to 10 years in jail because they were accused of working with a foreign enemy country, but they said they didn’t do it. Iran allowed Baquer to leave the country in 2022 to get medical help.

Emad Shargi was arrested in 2018 when he was working for an investment company in Iran. After being let out of jail temporarily, he was later informed that he was no longer accused of spying. In 2020, a court told him that he was found guilty of a crime even though he was not there and given a 10-year prison sentence. In 2021, a person was set free before their appeal and allegedly taken into custody when attempting to cross Iran’s western border without permission.
The two additional Americans who were freed have not been identified.

It is a great relief for some prisoners to be released and come home, but there is also worry that more prisoners could be taken in the future. There are more people with citizenship from two countries who are still in prison in Tehran.

Sanam Vakil, who works at a think tank in London called Chatham House, says that the Iranian government has started to become a government that takes people hostage. “They have been manipulating people and using them as tools, which gives them an advantage over the West. ”

Qatar wants this rare moment of cooperation to help make progress on other longstanding disagreements and disputes. One of these is the 2015 nuclear deal, which was almost completely abandoned by former US President Donald Trump five years ago. Some people are doubtful about it.

A Western official, who knows about the situation, is frustrated because the Iranians say they want to start serious diplomatic discussions, but there is no agreement or proper negotiations happening. “They have made progress, but we have informed them, with the help of the Omanis, about the necessary actions to create favorable conditions for diplomacy. ”

According to sources, Iran is producing less 60%-enriched uranium for nuclear purposes. This is not as high as the 90% needed to make weapons, but it still exceeds the limits set in the 2015 agreement.

However, there is growing worry about Iran not being open about its nuclear goals.

On Sunday, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, said he strongly disagrees with Iran’s decision to remove a large number of IAEA inspectors. The decision to move nuclear weapons, although it is allowed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is being criticized as a move in the wrong direction.

Last week in Vienna, 63 countries together signed a statement criticizing Iran for not cooperating with the NPT Safeguards Agreement.

Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says that we should not think this deal will make the relationship between the US and Iran better.

“He means that as long as Khamenei is in charge of Iran, they will keep being enemies with the United States. ” “It benefits him to have an enemy from outside, and it’s a defining part of the government’s identity. ”

People have been asking President Biden for a while to bring back the Americans who are abroad.

Earlier this year, Siamak Namazi, who was in prison, sent a letter asking for help to fulfill the promise made by the previous Obama government to bring him home safely within a few weeks. He said he was the person who was held captive the longest as an Iranian-American.

He got arrested while on a business trip to Tehran in 2015 and was found guilty of working with an enemy government, which is the United States. His father Baquer was also arrested and found guilty of the same crime when he went to Tehran to try to free him. But he was released last October, supposedly because of his medical condition. The United States said that they both were held in custody unfairly.

Morad Tahbaz and his family felt angry and abandoned after the British government promised that he and two other British-Iranians, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, would come back to Britain last year. However, this did not happen and they were left feeling upset.

This exchange happens when Iran is facing more and more challenges because of harmful international restrictions. It also follows a year with protests that were caused by the death of Mahsa Amini while she was held by Iran’s morality police.


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