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3 Americans freed by Iran now in Germany

An aircraft of the United States of America stands behind an aircraft of Swiss airline Etihad Regional, at Geneva airport in Switzerland, Sunday. | AP Photo

WASHINGTON — Three Americans who had been imprisoned by Iran have arrived in Germany.

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati and pastor Saeed Abedini arrived in Germany en route to a U.S. military hospital. They will return home after medical evaluations.

Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari opted to remain in Iran, officials said.

“This is a good day,” President Barack Obama said from the White House. “When Americans are freed and returned to their families, that’s something we can all celebrate.”

Special U.S. presidential envoy Brett McGurk said Sunday that he was “thrilled” to see Rezaian land safely in Geneva and “overwhelmed” to greet The Washington Post reporter and two other Americans freed by Tehran.

The three later left Geneva and arrived in Germany, according to a U.S. State Department official. No other details were immediately available about how long they would remain in Germany and when they might return to the U.S.

U.S. officials had said Saturday that the released prisoners would be taken to a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, for medical treatment. The hospital is near the U.S. military’s Ramstein Air Base.

The Post’s publisher, Frederick J. Ryan, Jr., said in a statement, “We are relieved that this 545-day nightmare for Jason and his family is finally over.

Hekmati’s family said “it is hard to put into words what our family feels right now.”

Iran celebrated the lifting of stiff economic penalties now that the Islamic Republic has met a critical benchmark as part of the agreement to pull back its nuclear program. Also, a dispute dating to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution of a military purchase by Iran was finally settled, sending $400 million to Tehran, plus $1.3 billion in interest.

But not all news was good for Tehran: The U.S. on Sunday imposed new sanctions against 11 individuals and entities involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program as a result of Tehran’s firing of a medium-range ballistic missile in October.

U.S. officials have said the Treasury planned to announce the penalties in late December, but held off after Iran’s foreign minister said they could have derailed the prisoner exchange that took place this weekend.