Five freed American hostages arrive home in United States in prisoner exchange deal

Siamak Namazi (L), Emad Shargi (2L) and Morad Tahbaz (2R) arrived home in the United States via Qatar on Tuesday after being wrongfully held for years in Iranian prisons accused of espionage. Photo courtesy Qatar News Agency

Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Five American hostages freed in a prisoner exchange with Iran arrived back home in the United States early Tuesday to a tearful reunion with their loved ones after being held for years in Iranian jails.

The five men landed at an airbase outside Washington, aboard a flight from the Qatari capital, Doha, at 5.25 a.m. after being released in a deal to set free five Iranians held in U.S jails and grant Tehran access to about $6 billion in frozen oil revenues by U.S. sanctions, money U.S. officials insist will only be allowed to be used for humanitarian purposes.

Siamak Namazi, 59, Emad Shargi, 59, and Morad Tahbaz, 67, who is also a British citizen, all spent more than five years in prison on spying charges. The names of the other two American hostages are not being released at the request of their families.

"We've all looked forward to this day," said special presidential envoy for hostage affairs Roger Carstens as he promised to continue to work to return home other Americans detained overseas.

As soon as the five were en route, the administration of President Joe Biden followed up by sanctioning Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for failing to cooperate over another American, Bob Levinson, detained decades ago and whom authorities believe has since died.

But Biden came under attack over the deal from Republicans saying he effectively paid a ransom that would only embolden Iran to take more hostages.

Presidential nominee hopeful and former President Donald Trump and his Vice President, Mike Pence, joined in rebuking the Biden administration repeatedly Monday over its positions on China, Russia and Iran.

However, Pence also criticized Republicans he accused of promoting "a dangerous form of isolationism," and identifying Trump -- who presided over his own prisoner deals with Iran and North Korea -- as one the main culprits.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi shrugged off Washington's restrictions which put Qatar in charge of administering the frozen oil funds, telling NBC that Tehran would use the money however it wished, "wherever we need it."

Biden and Raisi were set to come face to face Tuesday when world leaders gather for the United Nations General Assembly in New York.