Conn. resident detained in Iran for 6 years is one of 5 Americans released in prisoner swap

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A Weston man and his wife are heading back home from Iran after the husband was detained for nearly six years and his wife was not allowed to leave Iran.

Morad Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent who was arrested in 2018, is one of the five Americans who were flown out of Iran when Iran and the United States exchanged prisoners Monday.

His family released a statement Monday morning, saying they are "overjoyed and relieved" and thanked President Joe Biden. U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.

President Joe Biden identified three of the Americans as Morad Tahbaz, Siamak Namazi Emad Sharghi and said the two others wish to remain private.

"Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home," Biden said in a statement.

"Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Sharghi, and two citizens who wish to remain private will soon be reunited with their loved ones—after enduring years of agony, uncertainty, and suffering.  I am grateful to our partners at home and abroad for their tireless efforts to help us achieve this outcome, including the Governments of Qatar, Oman, Switzerland, and South Korea," Biden added.  

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy said in a statement that he "worked relentlessly with Senator Blumenthal, Congressman Himes, and the Tahbaz family" to secure the release and he is "immensely grateful" to the president.

“I am relieved beyond measure that Morad Tahbaz, Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and other unjustly detained Americans are on their way home today after years of imprisonment in Iran," Murphy said.

"After almost six years of brutal imprisonment, Morad and his wife Vida will finally be reunited with their family and I wish them every happiness,” Murphy said.

Himes said Tabaz is a constituent in the Fourth Congressional district.

“I am overjoyed to hear that, after almost six years of wrongful detention in Iran, Morad Tahbaz can finally return home to Connecticut. Morad is a father, a cancer survivor, and a wildlife conservationist who was unjustly charged while working to protect endangered wildlife in Iran," Himes said.

Morad is a father, a cancer survivor, and a wildlife conservationist who was unjustly charged while working to protect endangered wildlife in Iran

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes

“This news brings tremendous relief for Morad’s children, Roxanne, Tara, and Teymoor, who have been their father’s fiercest advocates, and for his wife Vida who has been barred from leaving Iran until now. After nearly six years of tireless work to secure Morad’s release from Evin prison and the return of both Morad and Vida to the United States, I am delighted that the Tahbaz family will finally be reunited. I remain ready to support the family through their reentry and adjustment into American life,” Himes said.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal said Tahbaz's release is a testament to the courage and strength of his family and supporters.

 “I am relieved that Morad Tahbaz is now free after many long years of unspeakably cruel, inexcusable imprisonment,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “Morad’s release is a testament to the courage and strength of his family and supporters, who never surrendered fighting for his freedom. I share their relief that his serious medical condition may now be treated, and his well-deserved liberty and rights have been restored.”

Tahbaz received a 10-year sentence. The charges against the prisoners have been widely criticized by their families, activists and the U.S. government.

In his statement, Biden issued a warning about traveling to Iran.

"And as we welcome home our fellow citizens, I once more remind all Americans of the serious risks of traveling to Iran. American passport holders should not travel there," Biden said.

"The U.S. State Department has a longstanding travel warning that states: “Do not travel to Iran due to the risk of kidnapping and the arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens.” All Americans should heed those words and have no expectation that their release can be secured if they do not," the president added. 

The Tahbaz family also said they will continue to fight for the release of other Americans who have been wrongfully detained.  

Read more about the prisoner exchange here.

The prisoner exchange came after some $6 billion once frozen in South Korea reached Qatar, a key element of the planned swap, officials said.

Morad Tahbaz detained in Iran
Roxanne Tahbaz, holds a picture of her father Morad Tahbaz, who is jailed in Iran, during a protest outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London, which houses the office of the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss after what she says has been a betrayal of her father by the UK Government. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
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