US, Iran Release Prisoners In $6bn Swap Deal

On Monday, the United States and Iran engaged in a prisoner exchange, releasing five prisoners each. This significant event marked one of the first deals between these long-standing adversaries in years. As part of this exchange, Tehran gained access to $6 billion in previously frozen funds.

The five American individuals who had been detained in Iran, including one who had been held for eight years, departed from Tehran aboard a Qatari aircraft shortly after the released funds were transferred to accounts managed by Qatar.

Upon arrival at the airport, the freed prisoners walked on the tarmac under the setting sun. Within a few hours, a separate aircraft provided by the U.S. government transported them to Washington, where some of them will undergo medical examinations.

The White House reported that President Biden had an “emotional call” with the families of the released prisoners. One family member commended the president for making the “incredibly difficult decisions” that led to their freedom.

“Thank you, President Biden, for ultimately putting the lives of American citizens above politics,” Siamak Namazi, a businessman held since 2015, said in a statement.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized that the highest priority of the Biden administration was securing the release of U.S. citizens.

“It’s of utmost significance to declare that our fellow citizens have regained their freedom,” Blinken conveyed to the press in New York, where both he and President Biden were participating in UN meetings.

According to Iranian official media, two of the Iranian detainees returned to Tehran via Doha, while the remaining three individuals released by the United States have chosen to either stay in the U.S. or relocate to a third country.

After discreet negotiations, partially facilitated by Qatar, the two nations finalized the exchange following the unfreezing of $6 billion in funds, which had been held by South Korea, a U.S. ally.

The Biden administration has rebuffed domestic criticism accusing it of paying a “ransom,” asserting that the funds will be solely earmarked for humanitarian purposes, with a threat to re-impose freezing measures if necessary. However, Iran has insisted on its full access to these funds.

The money “cruelly blocked until now and currently in the possession of the Islamic republic belongs to the people (of Iran) and we will use them to meet the people’s needs,” President Ebrahim Raisi said in New York.


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