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article imageThree Americans imprisoned by Iran arrive in Geneva, 4th stays

By Nathan Salant     Jan 17, 2016 in World
Vienna - Three of four Americans freed by Iran in a prisoner exchange arrived Sunday in Switzerland, a senior U.S. diplomat has announced.
"Overwhelmed to greet Jason #Rezaian, his wife, Yegi, mother, Mary + Saeed #Abedini + Amir #Hekmati to #Geneva after safely departing #Iran," senior U.S. diplomat Brett McGurk wrote on the social media website Twitter, according to Agence France-Press.
Moments earlier, a Swiss air force plane touched down on the same Geneva airport tarmac where a large, official U.S. aircraft was stationed.
Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, detained in Iran for the past 18 months, is one of the three on board, AFP said.
The other two are believed to be Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor, and former US Marine Amir Hekmati.
The fourth Iranian-American released as part of a prisoner swap, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, has not yet left Tehran, senior U.S. officials said.
A fifth American being held in an unrelated matter also was released Saturday, Iran's state television said, according to the Associated Press.
The deal is being seen worldwide as a triumph for international diplomacy and as evidence of warming U.S.-Iran relations since years of negotiations over Iran's nuclear program ended in agreement last July.
"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," an unnamed U.S. official told the AP.
"We couldn't be happier to hear the news that Jason Rezaian has been released from Evin Prison," said Frederick Ryan, publisher of The Washington Post, in a written statement.
"Once we receive more details and can confirm Jason has safely left Iran, we will have more to share," Ryan said.
The three other Americans in the deal -- former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, pastor Saeed Abedini and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari -- were scheduled to be flown to Switzerland on Sunday and transferred to the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, for medical evaluation, U.S. officials said.
The fifth American, student Matthew Trevithick, was released separately a day earlier.
As part of the deal, the United States will pardon or drop charges against seven Iranians -- six with dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship -- accused of violating U.S. sanctions imposed as a penalty to discourage Iran's research into nuclear weapons.
Three who had already been convicted and imprisoned were granted commutations or pardons, three others were awaiting trial and the seventh one had reached a plea agreement with U.S. prosecutors.
The U.S. also agreed to drop arrest warrants for 14 other Iranian fugitives, officials said.
The releases came just days after 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two boats seized by Iran in the Persian Gulf were freed after telephone talks between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
The two ministers were part of last summer's intense negotiations that resulted in the historic nuclear deal between Iran and the United States and four of its allies.
The agreement called for the United States to release $100 billion in seized Iranian assets and that appeared imminent on Sunday.
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