Breaking News Emails
In a major diplomatic breakthrough, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was released Saturday after more than 500 days in Iranian captivity along with three other Americans.
"Through a diplomatic channel that was established with the focus of getting our detained U.S. citizens home, we can confirm Iran has released from imprisonment four Americans detained in Iran," a U.S. official said.
The other newly released prisoners are Amir Hekmati, a former Marine who had been held since 2011, Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor imprisoned since 2012, and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, the official said.
A senior Obama administration official confirmed to NBC News that the Iranians have also released a fifth captive identified as Matthew Trevithick.
Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed in a press conference Saturday that the five Americans "who had been unjustly detained in Iran" had been released and would be "home to their families shortly." In the same press conference, he praised Iran for fulfilling their commitment to scaling back its nuclear program, which triggered the lifting of sanctions against the nation on Saturday.
"This achievement clearly demonstrates that with political will, perseverance, and through multilateral diplomacy, we can solve the most difficult issues and find practical solutions that are effectively implemented," EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in a joint statement about the sanctions being lifted.
Meanwhile, another U.S. official identified Brett McGurk, who is President Obama's special envoy to the coalition forces fighting ISIS, as the diplomat who spearheaded the secret prisoner negotiations with the Iranians.
As part of the deal, McGurk offered clemency to seven Iranians, six of whom are dual U.S.-Iranian citizens who had been convicted or were awaiting trial in the U.S., the official said.
The U.S. also removed Interpol "red notices," which are warrants on behalf of a government, against 14 Iranians after the feds concluded attempts to extradite them "were unlikely to be successful," they said.
Officials did not identify any of the 21 Iranians.
Rezaian's brother tweeted that he "has not received any direct confirmation that Jason has been released."
"We hope all hope it is true," Ali Rezaian of Mill Valley, California wrote.
But they were already celebrating at the Washington Post.
"We couldn't be happier to hear the news that Jason Rezaian has been released from Evin Prison," publisher Frederick Ryan said.
Rezaian, whose arrest was roundly criticized by both the White House and U.S. media, was one of four dual American-Iranian citizens being released as part of what Iran's semi-official news organization FARS referred to as a prisoner swap with Tehran.
Convicted last year of espionage and other charges after a closed-door trial, Rezaian's ordeal lasted longer than the 444-day Iranian hostage crisis.
Rezaian and his journalist wife Yeganeh Salehi were arrested on July 22, 2014, when the Iranians raided their apartment.
Salehi, an Iranian citizen, was released three months later. But Rezaian — the Washington Post's Tehran bureau chief since 2012 — was sent to the grim Evin Prison.
Then last April, Iranian authorities announced they had indicted Rezaian on four charges, including "propaganda against the establishment." His family and supporters denounced what they called trumped-up charges.
But their complaints fell on deaf ears and the Iranians announced Rezaian's conviction in October.
Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron called the guilty verdict an "outrageous injustice" and said the newspaper was working with Rezaian's family and lawyer on an appeal.
"Iran has behaved unconscionably throughout this case, but never more so than with this indefensible decision by a Revolutionary Court to convict an innocent journalist of serious crimes after a proceeding that unfolded in secret, with no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing," he said in a statement.