The release on Monday of the Americans who were wrongfully detained in Iran ends a years-long saga that included lengthy detentions in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, which is known for its long record of human rights abuses.
Emad Shargi, Morad Tahbaz and Siamak Namazi are among the five Americans whose release is part of a deal that included the transfer of $6 billion in Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar and the release of five Iranians in US custody. Two additional Americans in the deal have not yet been publicly identified.
Namazi, Iran’s longest-held Iranian-American prisoner, had been detained since 2015.
The 51-year-old was arrested when he was on a business trip to Iran in what the UN has described as an “arbitrary detention.” The Dubai-based businessman was charged with having “relations with a hostile state,” referring to the US. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said the country does not recognize dual citizenship and that it “routinely harasses citizens and dual nationals with trumped up national security charges.”
Namazi was the first US citizen reported to have been detained in Iran since the announcement of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. His father, Baquer, was also imprisoned in 2016 but was released in order to receive medical treatment in October 2022.
Tahbaz, an environmentalist, and Sharghi, a businessman, were first arrested in 2018.
Tahbaz is a US, UK and Iranian citizen who was arrested on allegations of espionage while on a trip to Iran. Prior to his arrest, both he and his wife had been blocked by an exit ban from leaving the country. In November 2019, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Tahbaz’s daughter, Tara, described her father in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour earlier this year.
“So, my father, his whole life from a young age, has been very passionate about environment and environmental conservation and wildlife preservation, which led him to found the Persian Wildlife Heritage – co-found the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation,” she said. “But my father is an amazing person. He is so calm, so kind, so generous, so noble. He will move mountains to protect the people that he cares about. He is an amazing father, that goes without saying.”
Tara Tahbaz told CNN that her father had cancer and had “gone through several medical conditions while he’s incarcerated,” including having Covid-19 three times.
Kavous Seyed Emami, another co-founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, was also arrested in 2018 but died in prison under disputed circumstances.
Shargi was first arrested in 2018 while working for a technology investment company. He spent eight months in jail and was released on bail but had a travel ban. In November 2020, he was sentenced to 10 years in jail by a Revolutionary Court for espionage charges.
Hannah Sharghi, one of Emad’s daughters, described her dad as her best friend. And Neda Sharghi, his sister, told CNN when he was released into house arrest and able to speak with her, “he went into typical big brother role asking me how I am, how my kids are, how our parents are and of course his wife and his two daughters.”
Both Shargi and Tahbaz were convicted “on charges that international human rights organization stated were lacking evidence and were tried lacking fair trail guarantees,” according to the US State Department.