Five Americans freed in prisoner swap with Iran, official says

FILE - Roxanne Tahbaz holds a picture of her father Morad Tahbaz who is jailed in Iran, during a protest outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in London, April 13, 2022. Iran has transferred five Iranian-Americans from prison, identifying three of the prisoners as Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz, to house arrest. The move comes after Tehran has spent months suggesting a prisoner swap with Washington. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP, File) (Stefan Rousseau, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Five Americans wrongfully imprisoned in Iran for years were released Monday as part of a prisoner exchange agreement that gives Tehran access to $6 billion in oil revenues frozen under U.S. sanctions, according to a senior diplomat in the region with knowledge of the exchange.

A plane carrying the five Americans and two of their relatives has taken off from Iran and is en route to Qatar, which had helped broker the swap. Five Iranian nationals held in U.S. custody were also expected to be released as part of the deal. After landing in Doha, the freed Americans were expected to board a U.S. government plane and fly home to the United States. NBC News first reported on the prisoner swap negotiations in February.

Days before the Americans were released, Republican lawmakers in Washington blasted the deal, saying it amounted to a “ransom” payment and will only encourage Iran to imprison more foreigners. A similar 2015 arrangement during the Obama administration, in which Iran was given access to blocked funds at the same time Americans held in Iran were freed, also had come under fierce criticism then from Republicans as a capitulation to Tehran.

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