Washington — Four Americans who had been imprisoned in Iran were moved from Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison and placed under house arrest, according to the White House and one of their lawyers, as part of a deal negotiated by the Biden administration to.
A fifth American who was already under house arrest is also part of the agreement.
“Negotiations for their eventual release remain ongoing and are delicate,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said Thursday.
Their release from prison was the first step in implementing a politically charged agreement that would bring the five Americans home in exchange for the Iranian regime gaining access to $6 billion of dollars in blocked funds.
The Iranian mission to the United Nations also said the U.S. had agreed to release five prisoners of its own. One U.S. official said no one has been freed as part of an agreement to date.
The identities of three of the Americans, who have been declaredby the U.S. government, are public. The two other individuals wish to remain private, the State Department said.
Siamak Namazi, a 51-year-old Iranian-American businessman, was detained in Iran in 2015 while he was visiting his parents. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly collaborating with a foreign government.
Namazi was not included in a 2016 prisoner swap that freed four other detained Americans, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian.
Earlier this year, Namazi went on, one day for each year since he was left behind in the 2016 deal.
“I went on hunger strike because I’ve learned the hard way that U.S. presidents tend to rely more on their political thermometer than their moral compass when deciding whether or not to enter a prisoner deal with Iran,” he said. “I denied myself food for an entire week so that maybe President Biden will recognize just how desperate the situation of the U.S. hostages here has become.”
His father, Baquer Namazi, was also arrested by Iranian authorities in 2016 while he traveled there to visit his son in prison. The elder Namazi, a former U.N. official, was released on medical furlough in 2018 and had his sentence commuted in 2020 because of his deteriorating health. Iran prohibited him from leaving the country.
“We are grateful that Siamak and the other Americans in Iran are out of Evin Prison and under house arrest,” Namazi’s brother Babak said in a statement Thursday. “While this is a positive change, we will not rest until Siamak and others are back home; we continue to count the days until this can happen. We have suffered tremendously and indescribably for eight horrific years and wish only to be reunited again as a family.”
, an American citizen who was born in Iran and left as a child, was detained in April 2018. He and his wife had relocated to the country after their daughters left for college.
Shargi, 56, was released on bail and cleared of the charges eight months later, but the Iranian government withheld his passport and barred him from leaving the country. He was arrested again in 2020 and sentenced to 10 years in prison after learning he had been convicted in absentia on espionage charges.
His daughters, Ariana and Hannah, wrote in the Washington Post in 2021 that their father liked to make jokes and listen to classical music on the radio. They said he attended every one of their soccer games and musicals, bringing them flowers, read all of their college essays and made them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches “cut into perfect triangles” every morning when they were younger.
“My family has faith in the work that President Biden and government officials have undertaken to bring our families home and hope to receive that news soon,” Shargi’s sister said in a statement asking for their family’s privacy until he is home.
Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American who also holds British citizenship, was arrested in 2018. The 67-year-old was arrested with eight environmentalists from the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, which Tahbaz co-founded. He was sentenced in 2019 to 10 years in prison on spying charges.
Tahbaz, who has three children, has a history of cancer and has been in ill health while incarcerated.
His wife has been prohibited from leaving Iran for several years.
Two unidentified Americans
Citing privacy considerations, U.S. officials said the two other Americans involved in the agreement wished to remain anonymous.
Speaking to “” on July 16, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed efforts were underway to bring home four American prisoners, the first public acknowledgement that another American was in custody. Since then, and amid ongoing indirect diplomatic outreach, a fifth American was detained.
All five Americans are expected to be released back to their families in the coming weeks.
Margaret Brennan contributed reporting.