None of the Iranians freed as part of a prisoner exchange deal with the Obama Administration last week actually left the country, U.S. officials told ABC News.
The seven men pardoned by President Obama as part of the “exchange” were accused or charged with violating American sanctions against Iran. Six of them are dual citizens of America and Iran.
The men who were jailed for defying U.S. sanctions are Nader Modanlo, Bahram Mechanic, Khosrow Afghahi, Tooraj Faridi, Arash Ghahreman, Nima Golestaneh and Ali Saboonchi.
In pardoning the men at the request of the Iranian regime, President Obama described their release as a “one-time gesture to Iran given the unique opportunity offered by this moment and the larger circumstances at play.”
Mechanic, Afghani, and Faridi were complicit in a conspiracy to illegally ship military materials to Iran, including parts that are fitted on surface-to-air and cruise missiles, the Department of Justice said. Mechanic, the leader of the conspiracy, sent over $24 million dollars worth of illegal materials to Iran, according to the complaint.
Golestaneh plead guilty in 2012 to hacking a Vermont-based engineering and software company.
Modanlo was sentenced in 2013 to eight years in prison after he was charged with thwarting sanctions and providing satellite access to Tehran.
Ghahreman was sentenced in 2015 to over six years in prison after he was convicted of setting up a front company to buy military and navigation equipment for Iran.
Saboonchi was sentenced last year to two years in prison for sending materials to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.
The Iranians previously jailed in the U.S. were freed in exchange for the release of American citizens Jason Rezaian, Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, Matthew Trevithick, and Nosratollah Khosravi Roodsari, who ultimately decided not to come back to America.
The U.S. government also agreed to halt efforts to seek the extradition of fourteen Iranian nationals on Interpol’s Red List.
An official confirmed with NBC News on Wednesday that the seven Iranians can stay in the United States as long as they wish. The Americans released from Iran remain at a U.S. military base in Germany, where they continue to undergo evaluations.
Hekmati, a U.S. Marine veteran who was freed from Iranian captivity, told the media late Tuesday: “Like I said, I feel alive for the first time. It’s like being born again, and I just really feel proud to be an American.”