The five hostages released by Iran as a part of a prisoner swap negotiation have landed at an airport in Qatar.
Five Iranian-Americans detained in the Islamic Republic on espionage charges have been released into US custody, the White House said.
The five prisoners were placed on a Qatar Airways flight at Mehrabad International Airport around 5.00pm local time on Monday. They arrived in the Doha about two hours later.
‘Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home,’ President Joe Biden said in a statement released after the prisoners landed in Qatar.
The US citizens board a plane in Tehran (Picture: via REUTERS)
The prisoners included Morad Tahbaz, a British-American dual citizen who has been detained in the country since 2018.
Tahbaz is an internationally recognized conservationist, and board member of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation. He was arrested alongside eight other foundation affiliates, including the environmental NGO’s founder Kavous Seyed-Emami.
The freed prisoners also include two Iranian-American businessmen convicted of espionage charges: Emad Shargi, a venture capitalist who was detained in 2018, and Siamak Namazi, who has been held in the country since 2015.
The two other prisoners, one of whom was under house arrest, have not been identified.
The released prisoners arrive in Doha (Picture: via REUTERS)
The exchange saw the US release five Iranian nationals, as well as the release of $5.9billion in assets that were frozen in South Korean bank accounts.
The assets will be sent to accounts in Qatar, where ‘the funds will be available only for humanitarian trade,’ the US State Department said.
The prisoners were released in Iran after the money reached Qatar on Monday.
Republicans criticized the deal as paying a ‘ransom’ for the American prisoners, but the Biden administration has defended the exchange.
‘This it not a payment of any kind,’ said White House National Security Spokesperson John Kirby. ‘It’s not a ransom. These aren’t U.S. taxpayer dollars. We haven’t lifted a single one of our sanctions on Iran.’
The State Department has not yet commented on the prisoner exchange.
The deal was finalized just days before Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is scheduled to speak at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
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