Americans released by Iran arrive home, tearfully embrace their loved ones
AMERICANS DETAINED for years in Iran arrived home Tuesday, tearfully hugged their loved ones and declared “Freedom!” after being let go as part of a politically risky deal that saw President Joe Biden agree to the release of nearly US$6 billion in frozen Iranian assets.
The prisoners landed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, with clapping and cheers heard in the predawn hours. Siamak Namazi, the first off the jet, paused for a moment, closed his eyes and took a deep breath before leaving the plane. Loved ones, some holding small American flags, enveloped them in hugs and exchanged greetings in English and Farsi, the main language of Iran.
“The nightmare is finally over,” Namazi’s brother, Babak, said at the airport.
“We haven’t had this moment in over eight years,” he added, his arm around his brother and his formerly detained father, Baquer, who had been earlier released by Iran. “It’s unbelievable.”
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One of the other freed Americans, Emad Sharghi, received from his sister, Neda, a US flag and a stuffed animal that she had given to their father 30 years ago when he had bypass surgery, a family representative said.
The former prisoners, who flew on the Gulfstream 5 that brought WNBA star Brittney Griner home after her detention in Russia, later posed for a group photograph with their families, calling out: “Freedom!”
The successful negotiations for the Americans’ freedom brought Biden profuse thanks from their families but heat from Republican presidential rivals and other opponents for the monetary arrangement with one of America’s top adversaries.
“Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home,” the Democratic president said in a statement released as the plane carrying the group from Tehran initially landed in Doha, Qatar, on Monday.
Iran’s hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi, on hand for the United Nations General Assembly in New York, suggested the exchange could be “a step in the direction of a humanitarian action between us and America”.
“It can definitely help in building trust,” Raisi told journalists.
Iran aired footage of the two prisoners who returned to the Islamic Republic as part of the swap, while two will remain in the US and a fifth will go to a third country. The two who returned hugged their families and criticised the US for their sentences.
“The US government accused me of having the will to jeopardise US interests through disregarding the sanctions. I wonder how the US government can accuse someone of a crime by reading his mind?” Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani told Iranian state television.