One of the Americans freed from an Iranian prison Monday expressed excitement at the opportunity to get his hands on a new iPhone after spending eight years in captivity.
Siamak Namazi, one of the five Americans who were released from an Iranian prison on Monday, released a statement saying that it may take him a while to get “reacquainted with liberty” and confront health issues from his time in prison, but he also expressed excitement for the opportunities that will be presented by his newfound freedom.
“I want to see foliage instead of walls and wardens. I want to lay back on the grass, with the warm sun on my face, and gaze up at the open blue skies,” Namazi said in the statement. “My other pressing ‘needs’ include visiting the Apple Store to replace all the devices my captors took as bounty. I am dying to find out what gadgets now exist – when i was taken hostage, the iPhone 6s had just come out. You cannot imagine what an eight-year itch feels like.”
The statement comes after it was revealed Monday that a deal had been reached to secure the release of the five Americans, who were also facing lengthy prison sentences in Iran under charges that have been decried by activists, their families and the U.S. government.
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“Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home,” President Biden said in a statement as the plane carrying the group Iran landed in Qatar, according to a report from the Associated Press.
The five prisoners were released in exchange for $5.9 billion in previous frozen Iranian assets, according to the Associated Press, with that money being received by an account in Qatar on Monday.
“Fortunately Iran’s frozen assets in South Korea were released and God willing today the assets will start to be fully controlled by the government and the nation,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
The five Americans also arrived in Qatar on Monday, according to the report, and were greeted on the tarmac by U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Timmy Davis. Three of the former prisoners, Namazi, Emad Sharghi and Morad Tahbaz, hugged the ambassador and others present after exiting the plane.
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“I would not be free today, if it wasn’t for all of you who didn’t allow the world to forget me,” Namazi said in the statement. “Thank you for being my voice when I could not speak for myself and for making sure I was heard when I mustered the strength to scream from behind the impenetrable walls of Evin Prison.”
U.S. officials have yet to identify the other two prisoners who were freed, according to the Associated Press. However, the U.S. did announce that it was sanctioning Iranian officials it believes are at least partly responsible for the five Americans’ “wrongful detention.”
“While we celebrate the release of Emad [Sharghi], Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, and two other U.S. citizens from their unjust detention in Iran, we are also taking action to hold the regime accountable for its abhorrent practice of unjustly detaining other countries’ citizens and to deter future wrongful detention by Iran and other regimes,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that was shared with Fox News Digital. “The United States is today designating Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) in connection with the MOIS’s involvement in the wrongful detention of [U.S.] citizens and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his support to MOIS.”
Blinken also demanded answers on the status of missing American Bob Levinson, who was detained by Iran in 2007.
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“During Ahmadinejad’s term in office, Iran’s MOIS abducted and detained Bob Levinson with authorization by senior Iranian officials,” Blinken said. “The regime’s refusal to account for what happened to Bob caused unbearable pain and suffering to his family and those who care about him. We call on Iran to give a full accounting of what happened to Bob Levinson, from his initial captivity to his probable death.”
According to Kanaani, the deal also included the release of five Iranian nationals who had been jailed in the United States.
“On the subject of the prisoner swap, it will happen today and five prisoners, citizens of the Islamic Republic, will be released from the prisons in the U.S.,” he said. “Five imprisoned citizens who were in Iran will be given to the U.S. side.”
The three identified American prisoners were all supposed to serve 10-year sentences.
Sharghi’s sister, Neda, told the Associated Press that she “can’t wait to hug my brother and never let him go” after news of his release.
“This is my brother, not an abstract policy,” she added. “We are talking about human lives. There is nothing partisan about saving the lives of innocent Americans and today should be a moment of American unity as we welcome them home.”