Biden: Americans released from Iran endured ‘agony, uncertainty, and suffering’
President Biden welcomed the release of five Americans Monday from detention in Iran while calling on Tehran to give a full accounting of what happened to Bob Levinson, an American who disappeared during a CIA mission in 2007 and is presumed dead.
Biden in a statement highlighted “agony, uncertainty, and suffering” endured by Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Sharghi, and two citizens who have asked to remain anonymous after they boarded a plane from Iran to Doha, Qatar, before making their way back to the U.S.
“Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home,” Biden said in a statement.
Biden thanked U.S. partners in Qatar, Oman, Switzerland and South Korea who helped make their release possible.
“As we celebrate the return of these Americans, we also remember those who did not return. I call on the Iranian regime to give a full account of what happened to Bob Levinson,” Biden said. “The Levinson family deserves answers.”
The president later on Monday held “an emotional” call with the families of the Americans released, according to the White House. The call came after the Americans had officially departed Iran for Qatar.
The White House confirmed just after 2 p.m. that the returning Americans had departed Qatar for the Washington, D.C. area.
The Biden administration announced Monday sanctions on Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) for holding and interrogating prisoners and for its history of human rights abuses. And, it will sanction former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “for constant promotion of lies about Bob Levinson’s whereabouts that still persist to this day,” an official said.
The five Americans released Monday were freed as part of a deal to grant clemency to five Iranians and unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian oil funds. The White House has been adamant that the payment was not equivalent to a ransom, and officials have stressed that U.S. taxpayer dollars were not part of the agreement.
Biden reiterated the administration’s warning Monday against U.S. citizens traveling to Iran because of the risk of kidnapping and arbitrary arrest.
“All Americans should heed those words and have no expectation that their release can be secured if they do not,” Biden said.
The president vowed to continue efforts to free Americans he said are being unjustly held in Russia, Venezuela, Syria and elsewhere.
“We remain unflinching in our efforts to keep faith with them and their families—and we will not stop working until we bring home every American held hostage or wrongfully detained,” Biden said.
Updated 2:19 p.m.