Berlin, Jan 18: Three of the four US citizens freed by Iran in a prisoner swap have arrived in Germany, a US official said, where they were expected at an American military base.
The released prisoners yesterday landed in Germany after a brief stopover in Geneva. Among those on board was The Washington Post's Tehran correspondent Jason Rezaian, who had been detained in Iran for nearly 18 months.
"We can confirm that the US citizens who departed Iran this morning after being released from detention have arrived in Germany," a State Department official in Washington said. Earlier yesterday evening, senior US diplomat Brett McGurk posted a picture of himself welcoming Rezaian as he got off the plane at Geneva airport.
"Overwhelmed to greet Jason #Rezaian, his wife, Yegi, mother, Mary + Saeed #Abedini + Amir #Hekmati to #Geneva after safely departing #Iran," McGurk wrote on Twitter.
The group arrived in Geneva from Tehran aboard a Swiss air force plane, touching down at around 1700 GMT before changing planes to head to Germany. The Swiss foreign ministry had earlier said that the freed prisoners, all of whom have dual US-Iranian citizenship, would be heading to an American base in Germany.
According to US media, their destination was the Ramstein air base in western Germany, where the freed men were expected to undergo medical exams. Neither US nor Swiss officials had explicitly named those on board the plane, but McGurk's tweet confirmed reports that the three freed prisoners were Rezaian, Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor, and former US Marine Amir Hekmati.
Iran had announced their release on Saturday, just hours before Tehran's historic nuclear deal with world powers was implemented, in exchange for Washington pardoning seven Iranians accused of sanctions-busting or violating trade embargoes.
"When Americans are freed, that's something we can all celebrate," US President Barak Obama said in a televised statement from the White House. But he also sounded a note of caution, adding that the US would continue to have problems with the Iranian government's "destabilising activities" in the region, including its support for militant groups.
The Swiss foreign ministry said the prisoner swap followed 14 months of confidential discussions in Switzerland. The fourth Iranian-American released as part of the swap, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, has not yet left Tehran, senior US officials said.