— -- Five U.S. citizens detained in Iran, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, were freed Saturday, the same day sanctions against Tehran as part the deal reached over the country's nuclear program.
The Americans released were Rezaian, former Marine Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari and Matthew Trevithick, said U.S. officials.
The five Americans, who Secretary of State John Kerry described as being "unjustly" detained, should be on their way home to their families "shortly," Kerry said today from Vienna.
The prisoner release came as sanctions against Iran were lifted Saturday as part of its nuclear deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed today that Iran has completed the necessary preparatory steps to start the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and Kerry said today the U.S. will immediately lift nuclear-related sanctions.
Kerry today said the freed Americans and nuclear negotiations were both "vital breakthroughs."
While Kerry said the two events were not directly related, he said the nuclear deal "accelerated" the swap.
Families and colleagues of the people detained rejoiced amid the news of their release.
"We couldn’t be happier to hear the news that Jason Rezaian has been released from Evin Prison," Frederick J. Ryan, Jr., publisher of The Washington Post, said in a statement. "Once we receive more details and can confirm Jason has safely left Iran, we will have more to share."
“We thank everyone for your thoughts during this time," Hekmati's family said in a statement. "There are still many unknowns. At this point, we are hoping and praying for Amir’s long-awaited return.”
“This has been an answer to prayer,” said Abedini's wife, Naghmeh Abedini, according to a statement from the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents the family. “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 their families were likely celebrating, the family of former FBI agent Bob Levinson was "devastated" he was not one of those freed.
“We are happy for the other families. But once again, Bob Levinson has been left behind," the family said in a statement provided to ABC News.
Levinson disappeared in Iran more than eight years ago. While the U.S. official said Iran has agreed to cooperate with the U.S. to determine his whereabouts, his family said the Iranians have repeatedly denied knowing where he is.
As part of the prisoner swap, the U.S. offered clemency to seven Iranians, six of whom are dual U.S.-Iranian citizens, who had been convicted or were awaiting trial in the U.S., said the official. The U.S. also removed Interpol red notices and dismissed charges against 14 Iranians for whom extradition was unlikely to be successful.
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