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Briton Morad Tahbaz and four Americans freed in Iran prisoner swap land in US

Briton Morad Tahbaz and four Americans freed in Iran prisoner swap land in US

A Briton was among five people who arrived in the US on Tuesday after being detained in Iran on widely-criticised spying charges.

Morad Tahbaz, 67, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent, was released on Monday alongside four Americans under a deal struck by the Biden administration to issue a $6bn (£4.8bn) waiver for international banks to issue frozen Iranian money without incurring sanctions.

The five prisoners, who include Americans Emad Sharghi and Siamak Namazi, landed at  Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to clapping and cheers from loved ones.

Mr Namazi, the first off the jet, paused for a moment, closed his eyes and took a deep breath before leaving the plane.

Freed Americans Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz and Emad Shargi (AP)
Freed Americans Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz and Emad Shargi (AP)

“The nightmare is finally over," Namazi’s brother, Babak, told AP news agency 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."

The former prisoners posed for a group photograph with their families, calling out: “Freedom!"

The families of the released prisoners thanked US President Joe Biden for helping to secure their release, but Mr Biden has been criticised by his 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,” Mr Biden said on Monday.

Family members embrace Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz and Emad Shargi (AP)
Family members embrace Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz and Emad Shargi (AP)

Iran’s hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi 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.

However, tensions are almost certain to remain high between the US and Iran, which are locked in disputes over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Iran says the program is peaceful, but it now enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.

When the Americans initially stopped in Doha after their release from Iran, three of them — Namazi, Sharghi and Tahbaz — emerged.

They hugged the US ambassador to Qatar, Timmy Davis, and others. The three then threw their arms over one another’s shoulders and walked off toward the airport.

In a statement issued on his behalf, Mr Namazi said: “I would not be free today, if it wasn’t for all of you who didn’t allow the world to forget me."

“Thank you for being my voice when I could not speak for myself and for making sure I was heard when I mustered the strength to scream from behind the impenetrable walls of Evin Prison," he said.

The United States did not immediately identify the other two freed Americans.