WASHINGTON (AP) — Three Americans released by Iran in a prisoner swap are in Germany, where they’re being medically evaluated.
Another detainee has chosen to remain in Iran and a fifth one already has arrived home in Massachusetts.
Two of the freed detainees are Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and former U.S. Marine and Flint native Amir Hekmati.
In exchange of the Americans’ freedom, the U.S. pardoned or dropped charges against seven Iranians serving time for or accused of sanctions violations in the United States.
Hekmati’s family released this statement Sunday morning.
“Today, our brother, son and friend Amir Hekmati has been released from Iran. We have now been officially told that he is on a plane leaving the country.
It is hard to put into words what our family feels right now. But we remain in hopeful anticipation until Amir is in our arms. As many of you know, Amir’s father is very ill and soon he will embrace his son once more.
We are incredibly grateful for today’s news. We thank our government, and we thank all of you whose thoughts and prayers helped us tremendously since Amir was taken from us in 2011.”
“I join the Hekmati family, the State of Michigan and the entire country in celebrating the release of Amir Hekmati.” Sen.Gary Peters, D-Michigan, said in a statement. “The imprisonment of Amir and the other U.S. citizens held captive by Iran was unjust. Though we welcome all our American prisoners home, the U.S. must work in a coordinated fashion to vigorously enforce the terms of the nuclear deal and hold Iran accountable for their military provocations and terrorist activity that breeds instability and violence in the Middle East.”
Senators Peters and Debbie Stabenow cosponsored a resolution in the Senate calling on Iran to release all the hostages being held, including Hekmati.
Congressman Dan Kildee from Flint Township released a statement of his own in regards to Hekmati’s release:
“Amir Hekmati is coming home. I am overcome with emotion that after four and a half years, this terrible ordeal is ending and the Hekmati family will soon be reunited with Amir. We have worked so hard to see this day happen. I am incredibly grateful to everyone, including my staff, who worked tirelessly to secure Amir’s release.
I am grateful to President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the entire Administration for never giving up on Amir and the other Americans that were held in Iran. Their tireless work should be commended.
Amir, I cannot wait to meet you for the first time, give you a big hug, and welcome you home.”
Congressman Kildee has stood by the Hekmati family and has been in the fight to release Amir from Iranian custody. Kildee traveled with the Hekmati family overseas to bring him home.
Hekmati was arrested in Iran in 2011 while visiting his grandparents. He was accused of being a spy, which his family has denied.
Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, pastor Saeed Abedini and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, whose name had not been previously made public, were also freed from custody. A fifth American was released separately.
The U.S. will pardon or drop charges against the seven Iranians – six of whom are dual U.S.-Iranian citizens – accused or convicted of violating U.S. sanctions.
In addition, the U.S. will drop Interpol “red notices” – or arrest warrants – on 14 Iranian fugitives it has sought.
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders says the exchange shows “diplomacy can work even in this volatile region of the world.”
Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio and other conservatives say Americans should never have been captured in the first place. In Iowa, Rubio blamed the White House’s willingness to do prisoner swaps in the past, saying governments take Americans hostage because they believe they can gain concessions from the Obama Administration.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.