Americans held hostage by Iran are human bargaining chips, family says

Iran is using American prisoners as ‘bargaining chips’ for sanction relief

Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin has the exclusive on ‘Special Report’

EXCLUSIVE: As the Biden administration continues talks with Iran about restarting the nuclear deal, five Americans are still being held in prison by Tehran. Their families say they are human bargaining chips.

Among them: Emad Shargi, a 56-year-old American businessman whose wife and daughters are making a public appeal for his release. He has not been heard from in five and a half months. He was taken to Iran’s notorious Evin prison in 2017.

“He was simply taken out of our life and without an explanation,” his wife of 32 years Bahareh Shargi told Fox News in an exclusive interview. 

They went to Iran three years ago inspired by travel shows and Anthony Bourdain to see the country they left as children – a decision that would upend their lives.

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    Emad in Tehran, April 2018( )

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    Emad and Baby Hannah( )

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“It was at 2:30 in the morning when about 15, 16, 17 people came to the house and without any kind of explanation went through every little detail, every door, every paper of the house and proceeded to take Emad with them,” Bahareh explained with her daughter Hannah by her side. She was told he would be taken to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

“I went there for two weeks every morning and it was as if they didn’t know who I’m talking about until they finally told me your husband is here and will be here for a long time.”

Emad Shargi has not been charged or put on trial.

His two daughters: Hannah, age 23, and Ariana, age 24, described how hard it has been not having their father home with them in the US. He has missed both their college graduations and so much more.

“Our dad is really just the most incredible father in the world. He’s extremely present. He shows up for you all the time, every single game,” Hannah said. “He loves listening to music. He’s a great cook. And I just miss those things about him. I miss being around him. I miss hugging him and driving around DC, listening to the radio. He’s just an incredible father and he should be with his family.”

Her older sister Ariana added: “He is the person that we all turn to. He’s the one who keeps our family together. He’s the foundation of our family. He’s an innocent American who’s being held against his will, unable to come home.”

Six days after becoming Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke to the families of all Americans detained wrongfully overseas. While in London recently he reiterated: “I am determined to bring every American home. More broadly on this, we have to take a stand against the arbitrary detention of citizens for political purposes.”

“Countries that engage in these actions need to know that that cannot happen with impunity and it is truly unacceptable,” Blinken said.

For the families of Baquer and Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Afshin Sheikholeslami Vatani, Emad Shargi and Robert Levinson who the US government believes to be deceased, having their family members used by Iran as geo-political pawns has been excruciating.

“For the first time, we truly understand what it means to be an American, and that’s to have your whole country, your whole community rally behind you and really be there for you. So I think that’s what’s gotten us through the last three years,” Ariana told Fox.

The State Department has played down reports of an imminent prisoner swap. The Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley is currently in Vienna leading the nuclear talks. 

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