Iran Releases Five US Citizens from Prison, Places Them under House Arrest

news 13-Aug-2023 Asia

Five US Citizens Released from Iranian Prison

After years of imprisonment, Iran has released five US citizens. However, they are not allowed to leave the country and are under house arrest. The US government still considers it an "encouraging step".

Iran has released five imprisoned US citizens from a prison in Tehran and placed them under house arrest. This was confirmed by the National Security Council of the US government in Washington. Earlier, a lawyer representing the family of one of the detainees made the releases public.

The government described it as an "encouraging step". However, there are still further difficult negotiations ahead to bring the five back home.
Iranian media report prisoner exchange

According to an Iranian report, Tehran intends to demand frozen assets in return. This concerns approximately six billion US dollars (5.46 billion euros) that South Korea had blocked due to international sanctions. The money is expected to be transferred to Qatar initially.

According to further information from the Iranian news agency Tasnim, which is close to the powerful Revolutionary Guards, Iranians imprisoned in the US will also be released. Initially, there were different reports in Iranian media about the number of US citizens who are expected to be released.

Human rights activists: Trials are unfair

Iran repeatedly arrests foreigners on charges of espionage or other violations of national security. Human rights activists criticize the often closed-door trials as unfair. The Islamic Republic is also accused of holding foreigners as hostages.

The US citizens who have been imprisoned so far have Iranian roots and hold both Iranian and US citizenship. However, Iran does not recognize dual citizenships.  

One of the most well-known US prisoners in Iran is businessman Siamak Namasi, who holds both citizenships. He was arrested in 2015 along with his father and then sentenced to ten years in prison for espionage. Bagher Namasi, a former UNICEF employee, was released in 2022 as part of an agreement with the US. His son remained in the notorious Evin prison in the capital Tehran until recently.

"We will not rest until they are all back home"

In 2018, environmentalist Morad Tahbas and businessman Emad Shargi were arrested. The identities of two other detainees with US passports are unknown. According to the government, both do not want to be publicly named. "We will continue to monitor their condition as closely as possible," said the National Security Council. "Of course, we will not rest until they are all back home in the United States."

Until then, negotiations for their release will continue - and they are delicate. "Therefore, we will only be able to provide few details about the status of their house arrest or our efforts for their release."

"There are no guarantees for what happens next"

The lawyer for the Namasi family, Jared Genser, wrote in a statement: "The transfer of the American hostages from Evin prison to the expected house arrest is an important development. But there are simply no guarantees for what happens next." Genser denied reports that there is already a deal between the two countries for a prisoner exchange.

Siamak's brother, Babak Namasi, expressed relief: "We are grateful that Siamak and the other Americans in Iran have left Evin prison and are under house arrest," said Babak Namasi. "Although this is a positive change, we will not rest until Siamak and the others are back home."

Several Germans in Iranian prisons

A few months ago, Iran released two Austrians, a Belgian, and a Dane. The release was related to the transfer of an Iranian diplomat convicted of terrorism charges from Belgium to Tehran. The mediation was carried out by the Gulf state of Oman, which has repeatedly intervened between Iran and the West in this manner.

Several Germans are also imprisoned in Iran. This includes German-Iranian Nahid Taghavi, who was arrested in October 2020 and then sentenced for "propaganda against the state". Another German-Iranian, Djamshid Sharmahd, was sentenced to death on terrorism charges. There are fears that Iran will actually carry out the death penalty.

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