3 of the 4 US-Iranian political prisoners to be released by Iran: (L to R) Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, and Emad Sharghi

EA on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story: A Deal To Free US Political Prisoners in Iran


Implementing a deal for the release of five American political prisoners from Iran, the Biden Administration has issued a waiver for banks to transfer $6 billion in frozen Iranian oil funds without fear of U.S. sanctions.

The Administration is also proceeding with the release of five Iranian citizens charged in the US — four of sanctions evasion and the fifth of acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

The US Congress was notified of the bank waiver on Monday. The funds are being transferred from South Korea to Qatar, and are earmarked for the purchase of humanitarian goods such as food or medicine.


Shahab Dalili, 60, a US permanent resident detained in Iran since April 2016, has begun a hunger strike.

Dalili’s son Darian said his father, a shipping captain, is protesting his exclusion from last week’s deal that may result in the release of five US citizens who have been held as political prisoners in Tehran.

Shahab Dalili was seized during a visit for his father’s funeral. He was charged with aiding and abetting a foreign country and given a 10-year sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison.

Darian Dalili said:

The deal is being done and he’s not part of it. That was very heartbreaking.

He feels betrayed. He is demoralized. He believes that the US would bring back anyone that they want to bring back.

He added that he is also on a hunger strike to raise awareness about his father’s case.

At a daily briefing, State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel did not explalin why Dalili was not part of the deal with Tehran.

However, he said Dalili has not yet been declared “wrongfully detained”, a legal determination which indicates that the U.S. Government views the charges against an individual as politically motivated and false.

Patel did not say why Dalili was not considered wrongfully detained.

Darian Dalili said of call from the State Department’s acting special envoy for Iran, Abram Paley, “I asked why hasn’t the designation happened yet, and he wasn’t able to provide an answer.”

ORIGINAL ENTRY, AUG 11: Iran will soon release five Iranian-American political prisoners, in exchange for access to $6 billion for humanitarian purposes and the return of several Iranians from US prisons, according to “sevral people familiar with the deal”.

The deal is the culmination of more than two years of negotiations, often conducted discreetly amid tension over Iran’s nuclear program, Tehran’s repression of human rights, and US sanctions.

As a first step, Tehran has released the five US-Iran dual nationals into house arrest.

Adrienne Watson, the National Security Council spokeswoman, said Thursday:

We have received confirmation that Iran has released from prison five Americans who were unjustly detained.

[They] should have never been detained in the first place. We will continue to monitor their condition as closely as possible.

Negotiations for their eventual release remain ongoing and are delicate.

The five political prisoners are:

  • Oil executive Siamak Namazi, seized in October 2015 and given a 10-year sentence for “espionage”;
  • Emad Sharghi, a partner at a company in Abu Dhabi leasing and selling private airplanes, detained without explanation in 2018, re-arrested in 2020, and given a 10-year prison term;
  • Morad Tahbaz, one of nine environmentalists seized in January 2018, also condemned to 10 years in prison;
  • An unnamed businessman and unnamed scientist.

Namazi, Sharghi, Tahbaz, and one of the unnamed Americans were transferred from Tehran’s Evin Prison to a hotel in the capital, where they will be held for several weeks until they are allowed to board an airplane, according to Namazi’s lawyer Jared Genzer, the lawyer for Mr. Namazi said.

The other American was earlier released into house arrest.

“People familiar with the agreement said that when the five return to the US, the Biden administration will release a group of Iranian nationals serving prison sentences for violating sanctions.

Iran’s mission at the UN confirmed that the two countries had agreed to “reciprocally release and pardon five prisoners”.

The US will transfer almost $6 billion of Iran’s assets in South Korea, putting the funds into an account in the Central Bank of Qatar. The account will be controlled by the Qatari Government and monitors so Iran can only use the money to pay vendors for humanitarian purchases such as medicine and food.

The deal was nearly completed in March, but Iran seized one of the unnamed Americans, according to “two Iranians close to the government who were familiar with the agreement”. Tehran initially refused to include the political detainee in the agreement.

The final arrangements were mediated by Oman, Qatar, and Switzerland.

Biden Administration officials do not believe that there are any other American political prisoners in Iran. In 2020, US agencies concluded that retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in 2007 on an unauthorized mission for the CIA, died while in custody.