Iran moves five Americans from prison to house arrest

Four of the Americans which include Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz have been moved out of Tehran’s Evin Prison on Thursday.

Tehran: Five Americans who had been imprisoned in Iran have been now placed under house arrest. The development is the first step in a deal between the United States and Iran that would include making USD 6 billion in Iranian funds more accessible to Tehran in exchange for their return to the US, CNN reported. 

The Permanent Mission of Iran to the United Nations in a statement said that “as part of a humanitarian cooperation agreement mediated by a third-party government, Iran and the US have agreed to reciprocally release and pardon five prisoners.” 

Four of the Americans which include Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz have been moved out of Tehran’s Evin Prison on Thursday, CNN reported citing the White House. The fifth American who has not been identified publicly has also been placed under house arrest, CNN cited a source familiar with the negotiations.

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The source called the development an “encouraging step” and stressed that there’s “a roadmap that has basically been agreed.” However, they said that “there’s a number of things here that still need to be worked out” in the prospective deal for Americans’ return to the US, according to CNN. 

The roadmap includes plans to make USD 6 billion in Iranian funds that have been in a restricted account in South Korea more available for “non-sanctionable trade” of goods like food and medicine by moving them to “a restricted account elsewhere.”

According to the source, the decision will not provide new funds to Iran. However, Iran will be able to use those funds that are currently in South Korean accounts for humanitarian purposes and non-sanctionable trade. The source said there is also expected to be a prisoner swap component to the deal. 

The source said, “no prisoners held in the US will be released in exchange for these Americans moving to house arrest.” They called the transfer of these prisoners out of prison a “significant initial step in the implementation of this agreement,” according to CNN. 

The source said, “There’s kind of a step-by-step process that’s going to unfold. So, the first step is getting our people out of prison.” A source aware of the negotiations said that Iran will not immediately “gain any benefit.”

They said, “Then there will be arrangements in place we’ve agreed to do some things, Iran has agreed to do some things that will eventually lead to the Americans coming home.” The source said that “It’s going to be a period of weeks” before the Americans return to the US, noting a September timeframe. 

The source said that there has been a “very intensive process of negotiations with the Iranians.” The source familiar told reporters that the US was “very clear with the Iranians that to get anywhere the Americans have to be out of Evin Prison.”

In a statement on Thursday, US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said that the US “received confirmation that Iran has released from prison five Americans who were unjustly detained and has placed them on house arrest.” She said that US will continue to monitor their condition. 

Watson said, “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.”

She further said, “Until that time, negotiations for their eventual release remain ongoing and are delicate. We will, therefore, have little in the way of details to provide about the state of their house arrest or about our efforts to secure their freedom.” 

Jared Genser, the pro-bono counsel for Namazi, strongly cautioned against being overly optimistic regarding the freedom of Americans until they come out of Iran. He said, “There are simply no guarantees about what happens from here,” CNN reported. 

Namazi, the longest-held American in Iran, was arrested in 2015 when he was on a business trip. He was charged with having “relations with a hostile state,” referring to the US. He is a dual Iranian-US citizen. 

Shargi, a businessman, and Tahbaz, an environmentalist, were first arrested in 2018. They are also dual Iranian-US citizens. The US State Department said that all three have been wrongfully detained. 

Namazi, who had been left behind in a deal under the Obama administration said, “I remain deeply worried that the White House just doesn’t appreciate how dire our situation has become.” The families of Namazi, Shargi and Tahbaz had made urgent calls to the Biden administration to bolster their efforts to bring their loved ones back to the US, as per the CNN report.

Their families welcomed the news that their loved ones had been placed on house arrest. However, the families of Namazi, Shargi and Tahbaz said they were awaiting the day that they were finally back in the US, the report said. Babak Namazi, Siamak’s brother, said that they are “grateful” that Siamak and other Americans in Iran are out of Evin prison.  

Tara Tahbaz, Morad Tahbaz’s daughter, said that they are “encouraged” by the development regarding the conditions of her father and the other American hostages. Neda Sharghi, the sister of Emad Shargi, said she was aware of the reports about her brother being taken on house arrest. 

(Except for the headline, the story has not been edited by Siasat staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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