Arch-enemies USA and Iran released five prisoners each from each other on Monday. The prisoners, who according to their respective countries were illegally detained abroad, were freed as part of an agreement that included the US unfreezing $6 billion of Iranian funds.
The five Americans of Iranian descent who were freed by Iran as part of the deal flew out of Tehran on Monday, hours after the freed money was deposited into accounts managed by Qatar.
The Americans, whom Tehran considers all Iranian citizens, meanwhile landed in Washington where some were to undergo medical examinations upon arrival.
This includes Siamak Namazi, a businessman who has been detained in Iran since 2015, as well as the gamekeeper Morad Tahbaz and venture capitalist Emad Sharqi. The other two prefer to remain anonymous.
They have been accused of espionage or other crimes in which they strongly deny their involvement.
Namazi’s mother and Sharqi’s wife, who were not in prison but were not allowed to leave Iran until now, have also since arrived in the US.
Two of the Iranian prisoners held in the US have since returned to Tehran after traveling there via Doha. The other three released Iranian prisoners chose to stay in the US or settle in a completely different country.
The prisoners are believed to have all been charged with or convicted of non-violent crimes.
The talks between the Americans and Iranians were partly led by Qatar and quietly completed after the transfer of the funds that were frozen by the American ally South Korea.
Iran raised these funds through oil sales. However, South Korea froze the funds after ex-pres. Donald Trump withdrew from a nuclear agreement and imposed US sanctions against the purchase of oil from Iran.
“Thank you, Pres. Biden, that you have finally put the lives of American citizens above politics,” Namazi said in a statement.
However, Biden’s Republican opponents condemn the deal he made with the Iranian government. The Republican senator Mitt Romney says the agreement will lead to “kidnaps”.
“The idea of basically paying to release a hostage is a terrible thought,” says Romney.
However, Biden’s administration denies that he paid a “ransom” for the five Americans and insists that the $6 billion will only be used for humanitarian purposes. If not, it will be frozen again, his administration says.
However, Iran has other plans with the money.
The Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, says that the money that “has been brutally blocked until now and is currently in the possession of the Islamic Republic, belongs to the people (of Iran) and we will use it to meet the people’s needs “.
The president of Iran’s central bank, Mohammadreza Farzin, meanwhile said Tehran would demand damages from South Korea for the delay and the reduction in value of the funds.