U.S. Officials: Michigan native Amir Hekmati, 4 others released by Iran

Posted at 10:45 AM, Jan 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-16 13:03:28-05

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) —U.S. and Iranian officials are now confirming Iran is releasing five American prisoners, including a Michigan native, in exchange for seven Iranians held or charged in the United States.

U.S. officials say the four Americans include Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former U.S. Marine and Flint native Amir Hekmati and pastor Saeed Abediniand a fourth person whose name had not been previously made public, Nosratollah Khosravi. U.S. officials say they will be flown from Iran to Switzerland on a Swiss plane and then taken to a U.S. military base in Landstuhl, Germany, for medical treatment.

Officials say a fifth American, a student identified as Matthew Trevithnick, was released in a move unrelated to the swap.

In return, the U.S. will either pardon or drop charges against seven Iranians — six of whom are dual citizens — accused or convicted of violating U.S. sanctions. The U.S. will also drop Interpol “red notices” — essentially arrest warrants — on a handful of Iranian fugitives it has sought.

Hekmati, a Marine veteran, was arrested in Iran in 2011 while visiting his grandparents.

Iran accused him of being a spy, which his family has denied.

Hekmati was initially tried and sentenced to death, but the verdict was overturned and a new trial was ordered. In 2014, he was given a 10-year prison sentence.

The latest developments comes as Iran and world powers prepare to implement a landmark deal reached last year to curb Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

The major diplomatic breakthrough was announced Saturday as the implementation of a landmark nuclear deal appeared imminent.