UPDATE: 7:00 a.m. EST — A plane carrying American prisoners, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, has taken off from Iran, according to media reports. The prisoners were released from Iranian detention under a prisoner swap agreement between Tehran and Washington, finalized Saturday.
“Friends and colleagues at The Washington Post are elated by the wonderful news that Jason Rezaian has been released from Evin Prison and has safely left the country with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi,” Frederick J. Ryan Jr., publisher of the Washington Post, said in a statement released early Sunday.
UPDATE: 3:07 p.m. EST — Jason Rezaian ’s wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who was arrested with him in 2014, reportedly was allowed to leave Iran Saturday, the same day her husband was released from Iranian detainment, the Washington Post reported. While she was not incarcerated, she was out on bail and could not leave the country.
Rezaian, along with three other Americans in Iranian captivity, was released as part of a prisoner exchange with the U.S. Iran released a fifth American who was not part of the exchange.
But Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing while in Iran in 2007, was not among those freed. The Iranian government has said it does not know where he is. Levinson’s family, however, says he likely was in custody. The news that he was not coming home Saturday fed into the family’s fear that he is dead.
The family expressed happiness for the families of the men coming home, but members said they are still “angry and devastated” over Levinson.
“We wanted him obviously to be a direct part of this, and made clear to Iranians that [his release] would be an appropriate humanitarian gesture,” an official told the Washington Post.
.@NBCNews reporting five Americans released, including a Matthew Trevithick, citing a senior administration official.
— Emmanuelle Saliba (@_esaliba) January 16, 2016
Trevithick was one of five released from detainment Saturday, a group that included Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who was convicted of espionage. Washington Post publisher Frederick J. Ryan Jr. released a statement following the news of Rezaian’s release.
“We couldn’t be happier to hear the news that Jason Rezaian has been released from Evin Prison. Once we receive more details and can confirm Jason has safely left Iran, we will have more to share,” Ryan said.
UPDATE: 12:09 p.m. EST — Senior U.S. officials confirmed the release of four Iranian-Americans being held in Iran, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, as part of a prisoner swap between the two countries, CNN reported. Rezaian, who was convicted of espionage, was released alongside Saeed Abedini, a pastor, Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine, and Nosratollah Khosavi-Roodsari.
A fifth American was also expected to be released, an Associated Press reporter tweeted. The detainee was a student arrested in Tehran months ago, and the release is unrelated to the prisoner exchange.
— Matt Lee (@APDiploWriter) January 16, 2016
The Americans held in Iran were exchanged for seven Iranians held in the U.S. An Iranian news agency named the seven Saturday: Arash Ghahreman, Tooraj Faridi, Nima Golestaneh, Nader Modanlo, Bahram Mechanic, Khosrow Afghahi and Ali Sabouni, Reuters reported.
While negotiations regarding the prisoner exchange were long, the deal was settled finally in a relatively short period of time. Negotiations went on for about 14 months, but the prisoner release was “clinched” in a period of 24 hours, the Associated Press reported.
Iran released Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian Saturday along with three other Iranian-Americans as part of a prisoner swap with the U.S., something for which Iranian officials had been pressing, the BBC reported. Rezaian was arrested in 2014 and convicted of espionage.
While the announcement from Iran's government did not name the others released, Iranian media reported Saeed Abedini, a pastor, and Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine, were also released. At least six Iranian-Americans held by the United States were swapped in exchange for the four held by Iran, the Washington Post reported, but it was not immediately clear who they were. No official confirmation from the United States has been issued.
Statement from Pastor Saeed Abedini's wife: pic.twitter.com/5S34vK1w30
— Daniel Burke (@BurkeCNN) January 16, 2016
Rezaian's brother, Ali, said in a tweet he had yet to receive confirmation of the release.
I have not received any direct confirmation that Jason has been released. We all hope it is true.
— ali rezaian (@arezaian) January 16, 2016
The news came as diplomats met in Vienna to discuss lifting sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran’s trimming of its nuclear program, the New York Times reported. The agreement was reached between Iran and the West in July.
Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, a journalist for the National, an Abu Dhabi newspaper, were arrested during a raid on their Tehran home in July 2014. Salehi was released in October 2014 on bail, while her husband was subjected to interrogations and forced to stay in a cell without a mattress or a toilet, the Washington Post reported.
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) January 16, 2016
Not recognizing Rezaian's dual citizenship, Iranian officials said after his arrest the country did not have to explain to the United States why he had been detained. Mystery surrounded the charges until April when his attorney said he was accused of espionage and conducting propaganda against the establishment, among other charges.
During the early stages of his trial, Rezaian was denied legal counsel. It was announced in October Rezaian had been convicted, but no further details were provided.