(WASHINGTON) — Five American citizens considered to be unjustly detained have all been moved into house arrest in Iran after previously being imprisoned there, U.S. officials said Thursday.
Four of the five were released from Iran’s notorious Evin prison on Thursday, according to a lawyer for one of the detainees. The fifth had been in prison but was already under house arrest as of Thursday.
The White House and State Department confirmed Thursday in separate statements that the citizens were out of prison and moved to house arrest.
The development is part of an agreement reached by Iran and the U.S., after months of quiet negotiations, that would ultimately see all five nationals released from custody and allowed to leave the country, ABC News has learned.
In exchange, Tehran would receive roughly $6 billion worth of Iranian assets held in a restricted account in South Korea.
Here’s what is known about the five American citizens: Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz as well as two others, a man and a woman, who asked that their identity not be made public.
Namazi, Tahbaz, and Shargi were all accused of espionage by Iran — charges that the U.S. calls baseless.
Namazi, 51, is an oil executive who was first detained in 2015 when he traveled to Iran on business. He was subsequently sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Siamak Namazi’s father, Baquer Namazi — a former UNICEF official — was also imprisoned by Iran in 2016 when he traveled to the country to attempt to see his son. Baquer Namazi was later released from custody but barred from leaving the country until October, when the then-85-year-old was allowed to leave Iran to seek medical treatment.
The younger Namazi was granted a furlough to see his father at this time but then forced to return to Evin prison a little more than a week later. Siamak Namazi marked the seventh anniversary of his detention in early 2023 with a seven-day hunger strike intended to urge the Biden administration to do more to free Americans imprisoned in Iran.
Tahbaz, 67, is an Iranian American conservationist who also holds British citizenship; he was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
He was granted a two-day furlough in March, when Tehran approved the release of two other foreign nationals, but ultimately was forced to return to Evin.
Shargi, 58, was traveling in Iran with his wife in 2018 when he was detained without explanation.
Iranian authorities initially confiscated his American passport, inhibiting him from leaving the country, before re-arresting him in 2020 and handing down a 10-year sentence for espionage.
A fourth American national
Their identity and Iran’s allegations against them are still unknown. This person was arrested last year and was detained in Evin.
A fifth American national
The identity of the fifth detainee, a female, is also unknown. She was already under house arrest when the agreement was reached but had previously spent time in prison.
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