The pact for a prisoner exchange between Washington and Tehran was completed yesterday despite the fact that tensions between both countries remain in many other aspects. The deal drew harsh criticism from Republicans, who say it boosts Iran's nuclear aspirations.
The White House confirmed that five prisoners with dual nationality, “unjustly imprisoned” for years, left Iran yesterday bound for Qatar as part of the prisoner exchange between both countries. In return, Washington released five Iranians imprisoned in the United States for alleged violation of sanctions and allows the Iranian authorities to access 6 billion dollars that were frozen in South Korean banks as a result of the sanctions that this country endures. .
Already in Qatar, the five freed people gave out hugs of happiness. “Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran finally return home,” President Joe Biden said in a statement that was not released until the device was about to land in Doha.
In the statement, Biden urged his compatriots not to travel to this Persian Gulf country and demanded more information about the whereabouts of Bob Levison, who disappeared years ago. At the same time, he announced new sanctions against former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian intelligence minister.
The Government of the Islamic Republic agreed to the agreement, which conservatives in the United States so dislike, to access $6 billion in revenue obtained from the sale of oil.
The plane with the five Americans and two family members did not travel to Qatar, a country that has acted as an intermediary in the negotiation, until it was confirmed that the money had been “thawed” and transferred to a bank account in Switzerland.
The plane landed in Doha around 5:38 in the afternoon (one hour less in Spain). From that airport they boarded another US Government plane heading to their home.
The agreement has been the result of two years of more than discreet negotiations with one of the great enemies of the United States. The prisoners released by Iran had already left the prison last August and had been transferred to a hotel, where they were under surveillance.
The Qataris will be in charge of controlling and regulating Iran's access to that money. The pact establishes that this sum be used to pay for humanitarian purchases such as medicines and food, goods that are scarce in the country due to the blockade to which the United States subjects it for having developed a nuclear program.
Since the deal was announced, the pact has come under fire from American conservatives. They do not believe that Iran will use that money for humanitarian purposes, but rather they think that it will strengthen the Government of Tehran, its terrorist activities and its initiative to achieve nuclear weapons.
Among the freed citizens are Siamak Namazi, 51 years old and sentenced to ten years in prison in 2015. Namazi has been imprisoned for a period of eight years, historically longer than any other American in that country. Two others are Emad Sharghi and Morad Thahbaz, both arrested in 2018. The latter is a renowned naturalist. The three faced insubstantial charges of espionage. The other two released prisoners preferred to remain anonymous. One of them is a woman. If those close to her agreed on something, it is that the day of liberation seemed like it would never arrive.
In parallel, Iranian prisoners in the United States, Mehrdad Moin-Ansari and Reza Sarhangpour, arrived in Doha to later take a flight to Tehran. The other three released Iranian prisoners expressed their desire not to return to Iran.