Iran Frees Five Americans in Prisoner Swap

Washington Post reporter Jason Razaian among those released after secret negotiations between Washington, D.C. and Tehran.
3:52 | 01/17/16

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Transcript for Iran Frees Five Americans in Prisoner Swap
We begin with breaking news out of Iran. It's being called a victory for U.S. Diplomacy. But it is the families who are celebrating most. Five Americans are free after a prisoner swap combined they spent nine years in captivity. The most high profile, "Washington post" reporter Jason rezaian convicted of espionage after a secret trial. Confirming Iran had dismantled parts of its nuclear program allowing the historic national agreement to move forward, a deal years in the making. ABC's Jonathan Karl tonight with the stunning turn of events. Reporter: The release of the American prisoners comes just as the nuclear deal with Iran goes into effect, lifting sanctions and making tens of billions of dollars available to the Iranian government. Three of the Americans released had been held prisoner for longer than the Americans taken hostage in Iran in 1979. Former U.S. Marine amir hekmati, held for more than four years, after an arrest on spying charges while visiting his grandmother in Tehran. "Washington post" bureau chief Jason rezaian, held for a year and a half, after a closed trial and conviction on espionage charges. Pastor Saeed abedini, imprisoned since July for organizing home churches in Iran. All three spent time at Iran's notorious even prison, where they were allegedly subjected to beatings, solitary confinement and psychological abuse. Two other Americans were also released including a student who was arrested just 40 days ago. Last summer president Obama angrily dismissed suggestions he was not working hard enough to the prisoners released. The notion that I am content, as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails, that's nonsense. Reporter: Not included in today's prisoner swap, FBI agent Robert Levinson who disappeared during a 2007 visit to Iran. His whereabouts tonight are unknown. In exchange for the release of the Americans, the U.S. Dropped charges against seven Iranians along with international arrest warrants issued by the U.S. Against 14 others. It's the third time the Obama administration has made exchanges to free Americans held abroad including Sergent Bowe berghdal, freed in exchange for five Taliban prisoners and Alan gross freed from Cuban prison in exchange for three Cubans held in the U.S. And Jon joins us now. The prisoner release comes on the same day the nuclear deal is being released. A lot of eye brows raised on the timing. The administration insisted there is no connection. The releases the same day the sanctions come down, Iran gets access to tens of billions of dollars in its assets. But the diplomacy did help pave the way. Long time coming. Jon, good to have you in new York with us. Thank you. We are learning more about what's next for the five freed Americans. How will they get home and how soon? Jennifer Eccleston has this part of the story. Jennifer? Reporter: Good evening. The Americans are about to leave Iran. ABC news has learned they will fly on a Swiss plane, stopping in Geneva before an American base in Germany and to a medical facility where they be evaluated. American officials will talk to them about their years in captivity. We believe that Jason rezaian will be joined on the plane by his wife, an Iranian journalist who has waited 18 months for his freedom. And we also understood the state department will help family members join the others on the journey. Cecilia? Thank you. The reaction is coming in from the campaign trail.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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