Five Americans detained in Iran are set to be released on Monday in a prisoner exchange, as confirmed by the Iranian Foreign Ministry. Among the individuals returning to the United States are Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz, along with two others who have chosen to remain anonymous, according to media reports.
Siamak Namazi, a 51-year-old oil executive with dual Iranian-American nationality, was initially detained in 2015. Subsequently, he was handed a 10-year prison sentence for alleged collaboration with a hostile government due to his connections with the United States.
Emad Shargi, a 58-year-old businessman, was detained in 2018 under unclear circumstances. After a brief release in 2019, he was re-arrested in 2020 and sentenced to 10 years in prison on espionage charges.
Morad Tahbaz, aged 67, is an Iranian-American conservationist with British citizenship. He was arrested in 2018 and similarly received a 10-year prison sentence.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken authorized a waiver of U.S. sanctions to facilitate the transfer of approximately $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue. This move paved the way for the release of the detained American citizens. The funds, originating from a restricted account in South Korea, were frozen when the U.S. reinstated sanctions against Iran. They will be transferred to Qatar, with restrictions on how Iran can utilize them.
Iran is expecting to regain access to its frozen assets on Monday, a development attributed to an "active foreign policy," according to Nasser Kanaani, a spokesperson for Iran's Foreign Ministry. These funds are intended to be invested for the benefit of the Iranian people.
As part of the agreement, five Iranian detainees will also be released from American prisons, as confirmed by Kanaani.
The planned swap drew criticism from Republicans, who expressed concerns about providing incentives for future hostage-taking. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mike McCaul emphasized the importance of the immediate and unconditional release of Americans held in Iran.
However, National Security Council Coordinator John Kirby clarified that Iran would receive no sanctions relief, underscoring that the released funds were designated for specific purposes and required oversight for valid withdrawal requests. Kirby stressed that the Iranian people, not the regime, would benefit from the funds.
When questioned about Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's assertion that the money is "fungible," Kirby refuted this claim, stating that the funds were not a payment or ransom for the release of the Americans.
While some Republicans vowed to use legislative options to reverse the agreement, Kanaani noted that only two of the Iranian detainees returning from American prisons were willing to return to Iran, while others had different plans.