The five Americans freed in a prisoner swap with Iran arrived in the U.S. early Tuesday, after the Biden administration agreed to unfreeze $6 billion in funds in exchange for their freedom.
The wrongfully detained American citizens landed in Fort Belvoir, Va. before dawn on Tuesday, and were greeted by loved ones who clapped, cheered and cried for their arrival.
The five prisoners, along with two of their family members who were unable to leave Iran, left Tehran early Monday on a Qatari plane to Doha.
Once in Doha, three of the prisoners could be seen hugging the U.S. ambassador to Qatar, and others, according to reporting from The Associated Press. They walked toward the airport with arms around one another and later departed on the plane for the U.S.
“Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home,” President Biden wrote in a statement Monday.
Siamak Namazi, a 51-year-old Iranian-American businessman, was the first off the plane in Virginia, The AP reported.
“The nightmare is finally over,” Namazi’s brother, Babak, said at the airport, per The AP.
“We haven’t had this moment is over eight years,” Babak added. “It’s unbelievable.”
The other released prisoners include Moran Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent, Emad Shargi, an Iranian-American and two other unidentified individuals.
In exchange for their release, the White House’s agreement granted clemency to five Iranians and issued a blanket waiver for international banks to allow the transfer of $6 billion of Iranian oil sale proceeds, frozen in South Korea, to a bank in Qatar.
The funds were proceeds from Iran’s oil sales that were frozen by the U.S. when relations between the two countries faltered.
U.S. officials said the funds were to be used only for food, medicine and other humanitarian goods, though Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi claimed the money will be spent “wherever we need it.”
Some Republican lawmakers have argued the move would free up resources for Iran’s military spending and support of terrorism. Those from both sides of the aisle also expressed concerns it will encourage hostile nations to take more Americans traveling abroad as hostages in the future.
Biden touched upon the concerns in his statement on Monday.
“And as we welcome home our fellow citizens, I once more remind all Americans of the serious risks of traveling to Iran,” he said. “American passport holders should not travel there.”
“The U.S. State Department has a longstanding travel warning that states: ‘Do not travel to Iran due to the risk of kidnapping and the arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens,’ Biden continued. “All Americans should heed those words and have no expectation that their release can be secured if they do not.”
Talks surrounding the deal began last month after Iran moved four of the detainees out of a prison in Tehran to house arrest, where the fifth prisoner was already located.
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