US agrees $6bn deal with Iran for release of five Americans detained in notorious prison on spying charges

The United States has reached a $6bn agreement with Iran for five American detainees to be released from prison, say reports.

The Iranian Americans, Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi and Morad Tahbaz, as well as two unnamed prisoners, had all been held on charges of spying in the notorious Evin prison and have now been placed under house arrest in a Tehran hotel, reported The New York Times.

The US government will unfreeze $6bn in oil assets and a number of Iranian prisoners will also be freed as part of the deal, according to the newspaper.

The group will be held at the hotel for several weeks before being allowed to board a plane and leave the country, stated Jared Genser, the lawyer for Mr Namazi.

One of the unnamed Americans is a scientist and the other is a businessman, sources told the newspaper. Another prisoner, an American woman, has already been moved to house arrest.

“The move by Iran of the American hostages from Evin Prison to an expected house arrest is an important development,” Mr Genser told CNN. “While I hope this will be the first step to their ultimate release, this is at best the beginning of the end and nothing more.”

And he added: “There are simply no guarantees about what happens from here.”

Mr Namazi was arrested in 2015 while on a business trip to Iran and was charged with having “relations with a hostile state.” His father, Baquer Namazi, was released in October 2022 after more than six years of imprisonment in Iran.

Mr Shargi, a businessman, and Mr Tahbaz, an environmentalist, were both arrested in 2018. All of the men have denied the claims against them and the US State Department has previously declared that all three were wrongfully detained.

The $6bn of Iranian assets will be unfrozen in South Korea and placed into an account in the central bank of Qatar, sources told The New York Times. It will be controlled by the Qatar government and can only be accessed by Iran to pay for humanitarian items such as food and medicine.

The Biden administration acknowledged the move by the Iranians in a statement from National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson.

“We have received confirmation that Iran has released from prison five Americans who were unjustly detained and has placed them on house arrest.,” she said.

“While this is an encouraging step, these US citizens – Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Shargi, and two Americans who at this time wish to remain private – should have never been detained in the first place.

“We will continue to monitor their condition as closely as possible. Of course, we will not rest until they are all back home in the United States. Until that time, negotiations for their eventual release remain ongoing and are delicate. We will, therefore, have little in the way of details to provide about the state of their house arrest or about our efforts to secure their freedom.”

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