Post reporter, 3 other Americans released in prison swap with Iran

Four Americans including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian will be freed from Iranian jail as part of a prison exchange agreement with the United States, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed on Saturday.

Iranian officials said Rezaian, 39, was released from Evin Prison Saturday after spending the last 18 months in Iranian custody.

Four other Iranian-Americans – Saeed Abedini, 35, of Boise, Idaho; Amir Hekmati, 32, of Flint, Mich.; and Nosratollah Khosavi-Roodsari – also would be freed from captivity, according to the Washington Post.

Rezaian was the Post’s bureau chief in Tehran when he was taken into custody in July 2014 and accused of spying on Iran’s nuclear program among other charges. The California native holds dual Iranian and U.S. citizenship.

He was sentenced by an Iranian court in November, though the terms of his sentence were not revealed.

A representative of Rezaian’s family declined to comment on Saturday morning on the apparent release.

Hekmati, a U.S. Marine veteran, has been held since 2011, accused by Iran of spying. Abednini, a Christian pastor, was jailed by the country in 2012 for attempting to start churches. Khosrawi was also charged with spying after his arrest in 2011 while visiting his Iranian grandmother, the Post said.

A high-ranking American officials told the Post a fifth American would also be released. Matthew Trevithick, a student, was detained in recent months, the official said.

One Iranian source with knowledge of the deal told the Associated Press that the Americans were released in a swap for seven Iranians held in U.S. prisons, though those prisoners were not immediately identified.

Iranian state media said on Saturday in a statement that the four Americans “have all been released.”

“Based on an approval of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and the general interests of the Islamic Republic, four Iranian prisoners with dual-nationality were freed today within the framework of a prisoner swap deal,” a judiciary official was quoted as saying on the Fars News website.

The prisoner swap comes as American and Iranian officials are meeting in Vienna, where the International Atomic Energy Agency was poised to announce that Iran has met requirements to scale back its nuclear program. The U.S., the European Union and the United Nations have installed crippling sanctions on the country, as Iran reportedly moved to build up its nuclear arsenal.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif  had met a short while before the prisoner exchange was implemented, Reuters reported.

Twenty-five news editors from some of the most influential media organizations in the U.S. sent a letter earlier this month calling on Kerry to work toward Rezaian’s release. You can read the letter here.

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