WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement on the release of five Americans from Iranian custody.
“Five Americans are on their way home to their families today after being unjustly imprisoned in Iran for years. It was important that the Biden administration worked closely with the governments of Qatar, Oman, South Korea and Switzerland to achieve the release of these Americans. I cannot imagine what they and their families have been through. I look forward to seeing them reunited with their loved ones in the United States.
“I am pleased to see that the Biden administration today also announced sanctions on Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), and former Iranian President Ahmadinejad for their roles in the disappearance and apparent death in Iranian custody of Robert Levinson, an American citizen whose fate has never been clearly determined. Visa restrictions also will be imposed three Iranian government officials ‘believed to be responsible for or complicit in serious abuses or violations of human rights, as well as hostage-taking or wrongful, arbitrary, or otherwise unjust detention of U.S. and foreign nationals,’ as well as two Iranian prison officials.
“We should never turn our backs on Americans unjustly imprisoned abroad, which is why Congress enacted legislation to codify the position of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs when we passed the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act of 2020.
“Those released today were not alone. We should not forget that there are numerous other Americans who are still detained, in Iran and elsewhere. The James Foley Foundation recently reported that there are 59 publicly disclosed American hostage and wrongful detention cases. Hostage Aid Worldwide identified at least 20 hostages in Iran besides the five released today. Between 2010 and 2022, the Iranian regime detained 66 foreign and dual nationals, with 40 arrested during the anti-establishment protests that followed Mahsa Jina Amini’s murder in custody one year ago.
“The Iranian people continue to suffer under the current hardline regime. As such, the Iranian funds released today – funds that were derived from legal sales of oil in prior years – are strictly reserved for humanitarian aid, primarily food, agricultural goods, and medicine that are not subject to sanctions. The Iranian money has been held in a South Korean Bank and will now be transferred to a Qatari bank. The Government of Qatar, working closely with the United States, will ensure the money is only spent on approved humanitarian goods. The Biden administration has stated that if Iran tries to divert the funds or use them for anything other than the purposes authorized that they will take action to freeze the funds. Congress also will be monitoring and will hold the executive branch to this pledge.”