Biden announces that five American prisoners are en route back to the United States from Iran.
President Biden praised the release of five American detainees by Tehran, which was achieved through the exchange of Iranian prisoners and the release of billions of dollars held in South Korea.
Simultaneously, he cautioned Americans against visiting Iran and expressed his intention to request a comprehensive explanation regarding the whereabouts of Bob Levinson, an American citizen who was last observed in Iran.
Mr. Biden announced that Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Sharghi, and two undisclosed individuals will be reunited with their families in the near future, following years of distress, doubt, and hardship.
The president expressed gratitude towards foreign allies who assisted in the exchange, such as Qatar, where the prisoners made a stop on their journey to the U.S., and South Korea, which released $6 billion in Iranian funds without concern for potential U.S. sanctions.
Some of the former prisoners had been held for years on charges, including espionage, that U.S. officials described as bogus.
Mr. Biden received strong criticism from the GOP for the agreement, with Republicans comparing it to a ransom payment to Tehran and suggesting that it encourages Iran to further engage in hostage-taking.
The White House stated that it had to make difficult decisions in order to repatriate American citizens. It cautioned individuals to avoid being trapped by the Islamic Republic in the coming times.
Mr. Biden stated that as our fellow citizens return home, he wants to emphasize the significant dangers associated with traveling to Iran. He strongly advises all Americans with American passports against visiting the country.
The president additionally mentioned that he would request specific information regarding the situation of Levinson, a former FBI agent who vanished in Kish Island, Iran, under unclear circumstances and is believed to have passed away following an extended period of captivity.
“I am announcing today that we are imposing sanctions on ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence based on the Levinson Act due to their participation in unjust imprisonments. Furthermore, we will persist in applying penalties to Iran for their provocative behavior in the area,” stated Mr. Biden.
After previously negotiating similar agreements with Russia for detainees, such as WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner, he stood by his decision to defend the prisoner deal.
Mr. Biden stated that his administration has successfully repatriated individuals from various countries including Afghanistan, Burma, Haiti, Russia, Rwanda, Venezuela, West Africa, and more.
“However, there are still numerous individuals who are being unlawfully detained in Russia, Venezuela, Syria, and other parts of the world,” he stated. “We are committed to unwaveringly supporting them and their families, and we will persistently strive until we successfully repatriate every American who is held captive or detained without justification.”