Jan 15 (Reuters) - Iran has released five American prisoners, including a Washington Post reporter, a Christian pastor and a former U.S. Marine, U.S. officials said on Saturday.
The Americans released as part of a prisoner swap with Iran are Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief, Saeed Abedini, a pastor from Idaho, Amir Hekmati, a former Marine from Flint, Michigan, and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, U.S. officials said.
A fifth prisoner, the American student Matthew Trevithick, was released separately from the other four, a U.S. official said.
Little is known about Khosravi-Roodsari and Trevithick. Here are details on the other three Americans released:
* Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post’s bureau chief in Tehran, was detained in July 2014 and jailed in Tehran’s Evin prison. Iran accused Rezaian of espionage and other charges. Iran announced earlier this year that Rezaian had been sentenced but never revealed the length of the sentence.
In recent months the Washington Post’s editorial page criticized the administration of President Barack Obama for not tying the release of Rezaian to the nuclear deal.
Executives from 25 news organizations urged Secretary of State John Kerry to push Tehran for Rezaian’s release in a letter this month. “The United States has considerable leverage with Iran right now to press that point, and we urge you to continue to do so,” the letter said.
* Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine, was visiting family in Iran in August 2011 when he was detained. Before making his trip, he had informed Iran’s interests section in Washington, D.C. of his military past, aware that it might arouse suspicion. But staff there said it “wasn’t a problem” and processed his paperwork routinely, his sister Sarah Hekmati told Reuters in 2013.
He went missing one evening when he was supposed to join a family gathering, Sarah Hekmati said. Relatives found he was gone, along with his laptop, camera, mobile phone, and passport, she said. Hekmati, 32, was convicted of spying, a charge his relatives and the United States deny. He was sentenced to death, but that was commuted to a 10-year prison term.
* Saeed Abedini, 35, an Iranian-American pastor from Idaho, was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2013 after being accused of harming Iran’s national security by setting up home-based churches in his native country.
Abedini and his wife regularly travelled to Iran on Christian mission work until 2009. He was setting up an orphanage in the country in 2012 when Iranian authorities detained him.
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has urged Obama to secure Abedini’s release and appeared with his wife, Naghmeh, at campaign events. Naghmeh Abedini said last week in a Facebook post she had “no updates from Saeed for the last two months.” (Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati, Joel Schectman, Idrees Ali and Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Stuart Grudgings and Mary Milliken)
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