Five Americans released by Iran in a risky prisoner swap returned to the United States on Tuesday to a joyful reunion with their family members.
The five arrived aboard a corporate jet at an airfield at Fort Belvoir, southwest of Washington.
Relatives waved U.S. flags and hugged the released prisoners as they exited the plane, then posed for a group photo with broad grins.
“Welcome home,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
The former prisoners, including one held for eight years, were part of a rare prisoner swap between Washington and Tehran, a deal that included the release of $6 billion in funds frozen by U.S. ally South Korea were.
The exchange marked a slight detente in relations between the two countries on a range of issues, including Iran’s progress in its nuclear program, although some observers urged caution and viewed the publication as a sign of change.
The prisoners arrived on a flight from the Gulf state of Qatar, facilitating the exchange that had been negotiated over several months. You will undergo a medical evaluation in the Washington area.
The Biden administration has rejected criticism at home that it is paying “ransom,” insisting that the money will only be used for humanitarian purposes, threatening to freeze the funds again if it does not.
But Iran has insisted it has full access.
The money “that has been cruelly blocked so far and is currently in the possession of the Islamic Republic belongs to the people (of Iran) and we will use it to meet the needs of the people,” President Ebrahim Raisi said in New York.
Both Raisi and US President Joe Biden will be among world leaders meeting on Tuesday for the United Nations General Assembly in New York. There is no meeting planned.
One of the released prisoners praised Joe Biden for ignoring the political backlash and making the “incredibly difficult decisions” that released them.
“Thank you, President Biden, for ultimately putting the lives of American citizens above politics,” Siamak Namazi, a businessman who has owned Iran since 2015, said in a statement.
Other prisoners released include conservationist Morad Tahbaz and venture capitalist Emad Sharqi, both of whom were held in the notorious Evin prison but were placed under house arrest last month.
Two other U.S. prisoners involved in the exchange have not been publicly identified. All are Iranian-Americans.
The five Iranian prisoners released by the United States have been convicted or charged with nonviolent crimes, with one expected to be released soon, officials said.
Some observers viewed the prisoner exchange with caution.
“We are not naive,” European Council President Charles Michel told reporters at the United Nations on Monday.
“We can also see the very brutal repression” in Iran, he said, including “the use of kidnappings by the Iranian authorities to put pressure on some governments, including in the EU.”
“We do not underestimate the extent of the tensions and difficulties.”
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