Pastor, Washington Post Journalist Among Five Prisoners Released by Iran (UPDATED)

UPDATE 5:21 p.m.:VIENNA (TheBlaze/AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. has confirmation that five Americans “unjustly detained” in Iran “should be on their way home.”

UPDATE 11:32 a.m.: A fifth detained American is also expected to be released by Iran. The fifth American released is reportedly unrelated to the prisoner swap.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. will pardon or drop charges against seven Iranians in exchange for the four prisoners.

Original story below.

Pastor Saeed Abedini was one of the prisoners Iran released on Saturday, his wife reported on social media.

Iranian state television said Saturday that the government freed four dual-nationality prisoners. Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, who outspokenly urged the Obama administration for help in freeing her husband announced on Twitter Saturday that her husband was one of the four men freed.

Pastor Saeed Abedini (Image source: ACLJ)
Pastor Saeed Abedini (Image source: ACLJ)

“It is confirmed: Saeed is released from Iranian prison,” she said Saturday morning.

Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice, also confirmed Abedini’s release on Twitter. He had previously announced that the pastor had been taken “by intelligence police to the Central Intelligence Office” and asked for prayers.

“We’re delighted this day has finally arrived,” Sekulow said in a statement. “Pastor Saeed should never been imprisoned in the first place. He spent more than three years in an Iranian prison. We’re grateful for the millions of people who have stood with us in our ongoing efforts—both in this country and abroad—to secure his release. We have worked and prayed that this day would finally arrive. And now, Pastor Saeed can return home.”

Abedini has been imprisoned since 2012 on charges that he secretly met with Christians in their homes — something that is not illegal in Iran.

“This has been an answer to prayer,” Naghmeh said in a statement following her husband’s release. “This is a critical time for me and my family. We look forward to Saeed’s return and want to thank the millions of people who have stood with us in prayer during this most difficult time.”

While a report Saturday did not identify the prisoners, a source close to Iran’s judiciary is confirming to The Associated Press that jailed Washington Post bureau chief Jason Rezaian is one of four dual-national prisoners freed today by Iran’s government.

Rezaian had been detained since 2014 on charges of espionage. As of Saturday morning, neither Rezaian’s family nor the Washington Post could confirm his release. However, an Iranian news agency has reported that he is among the four prisoners released.

According a report earlier this month from Iran’s Fars News Agency, U.S. officials had contacted the Iranian government in an attempt to exchange Rezaian with an unspecified amount of “other detainees.”

A Nov. 6, 2013, photo shows Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter, at the newspaper in Washington. (AP Photo/The Washington Post, Zoeann Murphy)
A Nov. 6, 2013, photo shows Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter, at the newspaper in Washington. (AP Photo/The Washington Post, Zoeann Murphy)

The report by the semi-official ISNA news agency quotes a statement from the Tehran prosecutor’s office as saying the inmates were freed “within the framework of exchanging prisoners,” without elaborating.

The U.S. would not immediately confirm the Iranian report. But the family of one of the U.S prisoners received unofficial word from Iran that their relative was being released today, according to a person close to that family.

Sources also told the Associated Press that Amir Hekmati and Siamak Namazi were also among the prisoners freed.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the four were freed Saturday in exchange for the release of seven Iranians held in U.S. prisons. He didn’t name the Iranians but said the seven have already arrived in Tehran.

He says “authorities at the top had agreed to free the four Iranian-Americans only after the Iranian prisoners land in Tehran.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story has been updated.

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