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Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, freed last weekend in a prisoner swap with Iran, was winging his way back to the U.S. on Friday, where a warm welcome — and monster snowstorm — awaited.
Rezaian, who spent 18 months in an Iranian prison and was one of five Americans released last Saturday after months of delicate diplomacy with Tehran, gave no indication where exactly he was headed in a statement put out by his family.
"At some point, I will be ready to discuss my ordeal, but for now, I just want to express my profound appreciation for the tremendous support I have received," Rezaian, 39, said in the statement. "I am humbled by all I have learned about the efforts undertaken on my behalf.
Today, I am incredibly thankful for my family, my fellow journalists, my colleagues at The Washington Post, and everyone else who fought for my freedom."
His Iranian wife, Yeganeh Salehi, said she was excited to begin "an exciting new chapter in our lives."
"After all Jason has been through, the past few days have reinforced why he is so special and why I am so proud to be his wife," she said in the statement. "I am thrilled to be going to the United States and thankful beyond words for the overwhelming support Jason and our family have received from so many people.”
Rezaian, the Washington Post's Tehran bureau chief since 2012, was arrested on July 22, 2014, along with his wife, when Iranians raided their apartment. She was later let go.
Convicted of espionage and other charges after a closed-door trial last year, he was sent to the grim Evin Prison, where he spent more than 500 days. Rezaian's jailing was roundly criticized by the White House, and his newspaper fought hard for his release.
Rezaian was sprung last Saturday along with Amir Hekmati, a former Marine who had been held since 2011, Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor imprisoned since 2012, and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari. The fifth prisoner, Matthew Trevithick, was released in a separately negotiated deal.
“Having Jason and our family back together is an incredible feeling after all that has taken place over the past eighteen months," Rezaian's mother, Mary, said in the statement. " I am so proud of how Jason handled his imprisonment, despite terrible adversity, and I am immensely relieved to see the return of the warmth that made him so loved by his friends and family. "
Rezaian's brother echoed that. “The past few days with Jason and our family at Landstuhl have been a dream come true," he said.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Rezaian's wife and mother recounted the "tortuous" final hours in Tehran when the reporter's release appeared to be hanging in the balance.
“At some point I told her, ‘Mary, somebody wants us out of the picture and there is a reason for it,’ ” Salehi told the newspaper. “ ‘Something is wrong.’ ”