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Iran to release jailed Washington Post journalist, 3 others

Seven Iranian prisoners held in the United States will also be freed in exchange for the release of four Iranian-American nationals
Supporters of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian protest for his release outside the the Iranian Mission to the UN in December 2015 (AFP)

Iran announced on Saturday that it is releasing four Iranian-American prisoners including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who had been detained for over 500 days.

The statement was followed by an announcement from the US that it would release seven Iranian prisoners held in the United States in exchange, an informed source told US state television on Saturday. The names of those to be freed by the US have yet to be released. 

News of the release comes on what is being known as Implementation Day, when the world powers lift a sanctions regime that has been in place for decades.

A statement issued by Iran’s judiciary did not name the released prisoners, but said the release was done “in line with the national interest”.

As well as California-born Rezaian, sentenced to unspecified jail time last year having been tried for espionage, Iran has been holding three other Iranian-American citizens.

They include pastor Saeed Abedini, in jail for three years after being convicted of undermining national security, and former US Marine Amir Hekmati, who is serving 10 years for cooperating with hostile governments.

It is unclear who the fourth person could be, with reports naming Siamak Namazi, a businessman arrested last year in Tehran after the nuclear deal was struck, as well as Nosratollah Khosravi.

A fifth American, retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, went missing in southern Iran eight years ago.