Who Are the 5 American Detainees Released From Iran?
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Five Iranian Americans detained by Iran were allowed to leave the country on Monday, according to Iranian and White House officials, after an agreement was reached to free them in return for the dismissal of federal charges against five imprisoned Iranians and the unfreezing of $6 billion in Iranian assets.
The Americans took off in a plane from Tehran just before 9 a.m. Eastern time and were expected to fly to Doha, the capital of Qatar. Officials said that they would be given brief medical checkups before flying to Washington on a U.S. government plane. Several of the Iranian American prisoners, who hold dual citizenship, had been moved from the notorious Evin prison to a hotel last month, according to officials at the State Department and the National Security Council.
The U.S. government had deemed the five wrongfully detained. Their release comes after more than two years of quiet negotiations between Washington and Tehran.
Here’s what we know about the detainees who left Iran:
Siamak Namazi, 51, an Iranian American businessman, has become the American citizen that Iran has acknowledged imprisoning for the longest amount of time. He flew to Iran from his home in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, in the summer of 2015 to visit his parents and attend a funeral, but was charged with “collaborating with a hostile government” — a reference to the United States.
The Iranian authorities later arrested Mr. Namazi’s father, Baquer Namazi, a senior retired U.N. official, when he visited Iran to check on his son. But the elder Mr. Namazi was allowed to leave Iran for health reasons last October after being under house arrest.
In January, Siamak Namazi begun a hunger strike in a direct appeal to President Biden to negotiate for his release.
Emad Sharghi, 59, also a dual Iranian American citizen and businessman, moved to Iran in 2017 with his wife, Bahareh Amidi Shargi, after their daughters left for college. The couple wanted to reconnect with the language and the culture of a place they had both left as children, and Mr. Sharghi started working for an Iranian venture capital fund.
A partner at a company in Abu Dhabi leasing and selling private airplanes, Mr. Sharghi had explored business opportunities with Iranian start-ups.
Mr. Sharghi was arrested in 2018 and released after an eight-month detention, but he was not allowed to leave Iran. When he tried to flee the country illegally in 2020 he was captured and sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of collaboration with an enemy state.
Morad Tahbaz, 67, an Iranian American businessman who also holds British citizenship, is a wildlife conservationist who co-founded the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the protection of endangered animals in Iran.
In 2018, he was arrested along with eight other employees of the organization on charges of “contacts with the U.S. government” and sentenced to 10 years in prison. His wife, Vida, also a U.S. citizen, was in Iran at the time of his detention and was barred from leaving the country. She is on a plane with him leaving Iran.
During his imprisonment, Mr. Tahbaz has suffered from prostate cancer and contracted Covid-19 three times, his daughter Tara said in an interview with Reuters in April.
Two unnamed detainees
The two other detainees have remained unnamed at the request of their families, the U.S. government has said. One is a scientist and businessman from California, detained nearly a year ago. The other is a woman who worked for humanitarian aid groups in Afghanistan and was arrested in 2023. Her detention delayed the U.S.-Iran prisoner deal when the United States said that all American citizens must be included in the swap, according to people familiar with the deal and Iranian media reports.