Iran has released five detained Americans from a prison in Tehran and placed them under house arrest. This was confirmed by the US government’s National Security Council on Thursday in Washington. Earlier, a lawyer representing the family of a detainee publicized the releases. The government spoke of an “encouraging step”. However, more difficult negotiations were ahead to bring the five back home.
Iran has consistently detained foreigners on charges of espionage or other national security violations. Human rights activists criticize the procedures, which are often negotiated behind closed doors, as unfair. The Islamic Republic has also been accused of holding foreigners hostage.
Businessman Siamak Namasi detained with his father in 2015
One of the best-known US detainees in Iran is businessman Siamak Namasi, who has both citizenships. He was jailed with his father in 2015 and then sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage. Bagher Namasi was released in 2022 under an agreement with the US. His son was in the notorious Ewin prison in the capital, Tehran, to the end.
In 2018, environmentalist Morad Tahbas and businessman Emad Shargi were arrested. The identity of two other previously detained people with US passports is not known. According to the government, both do not want to be named publicly.
“We will continue to monitor their condition as closely as possible,” the National Security Council said. “Of course we will not rest until they are all back home in the United States.” Until then, the negotiations for a release continued – and these are delicate. “As a result, we will only be able to share limited details about the status of her house arrest or our efforts to secure her release.”
Lawyer sees “no guarantees as to how things will continue”
Namasi family lawyer Jared Genser wrote in a statement: “The transfer of the American hostages from Ewin Prison to their anticipated house arrest is an important development. But there are simply no guarantees as to what will happen next.” Genser denied reports that there was already a prisoner exchange deal between the two countries.
Siamak’s brother, Babak Namasi, expressed his relief: “We are grateful that Siamak and the other Americans in Iran have left Ewin prison and are under house arrest. While this is a positive change, we will not rest until Siamak and the others return home.”
A few months ago, Iran released two Austrians, a Belgian and a Dane. The release was in connection with the transfer of an Iranian diplomat convicted of terrorism charges from Belgium to Tehran. At that time, the Gulf state of Oman, which had already appeared in this way several times between Iran and the West, mediated.
Several Germans are also imprisoned in Iran. This includes the German-Iranian Nahid Taghavi, who was arrested in October 2020 and then convicted of “propaganda against the state”. Another German-Iranian, Djamshid Sharmahd, was sentenced to death on terror charges. It is feared that Iran will actually carry out the death penalty.