Five Americans imprisoned in Iran have been released and placed under house arrest as part of the first step of a planned prisoner exchange between Tehran and Washington, officials have said.
The US-Iranian dual nationals include businessmen Siamak Namazi, 51, and Emad Shargi, 58, as well as environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, 67, who also has British nationality.
They had all been jailed at the notorious Evin Prison on spying charges.
The identity of the fourth US citizen allowed out of prison has not been made public, while a fifth man had already been released.
“My belief is that this is the beginning of the end of their nightmare,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a news conference in Washington, but cautioned that it was just the first step in a process.
“There’s more work to be done to actually bring them home.”
It follows months of negotiations between the two countries that will include a number of Iranian prisoners being freed and the release of $6bn in Iranian government assets blocked under US sanctions.
White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson confirmed the five were all out of prison and under house arrest, saying they should never have been detained.
She said talks for their eventual release “remain ongoing and are delicate”.