(Reuters) - Iranian authorities “continued to manipulate” Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian until the moment he was released with four other Americans in a prisoner swap over the weekend, his brother said on Monday.
A deal had been negotiated between Washington and Tehran for the swap but at the last minute, Iranian authorities tried to stop the Iranian-American journalist’s wife, Yeganeh Salehi, from leaving with him, Ali Rezaian told CNN.
“The Iranians, as they have done all along, continued to manipulate them, continued to try and mess with them and prevented Yeggie for leaving for some period of time,” Ali Rezaian told CNN in an interview from outside a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.
“The U.S. stuck to its guns, they had said Yeggie had to come along with Jason and they got her out,” Ali Rezaian said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that a delay in the departure of the plane taking some of the detainees from Iran was partly due to a “temporary misunderstanding” about whether Rezaian’s mother, Mary, and his wife, who is also a journalist, were on the plane, as had been agreed. They were later confirmed as being on the plane.
Rezaian and two other Iranian-Americans arrived on Sunday in Landstuhl where they were undergoing medical evaluations.
The prisoner swap followed the lifting of most international sanctions against Iran under a deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.
Ali Rezaian said his brother had recounted to him some aspects of the 545 days he was held in Iranian custody after being accused of espionage. He said Iranian authorities grilled him about fellow journalists who cover the country.
“We talked about a couple of things – some folks here, Iranian folks – people that cover Iran. The only thing he said was, ‘I was interrogated about them,’” Ali Rezaian told CNN.
Washington Post editors flew to Germany to meet with Rezaian, 39, who appeared in a photograph on the newspaper’s website wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and jeans and said he was feeling fine.
“I want people to know that physically I’m feeling good,” the Post quoted Rezaian as saying. “I know people are eager to hear from me but I want to process this for some time.”
Rezaian spent 49 days in solitary confinement before he was assigned a roommate in a 15-foot (4-meter) by 20-foot (6-meter) cell, one of his editors, Doug Jehl, told CNN after the meeting in Germany. He occupied his time by walking around an 8-foot (2-meter) by 8 foot (2-meter) concrete courtyard, reading fiction and looked forward to periodic visits from his wife and his mother.
“He wasn’t sure until the plane took off that it was the end of his ordeal,” Jehl told CNN.
Other Americans freed with Rezaian included Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine, who was detained while visiting family in Iran in August 2011, and who appeared smiling in a photograph taken in Germany on Monday.
Also released was Saeed Abedini, 35, an Iranian-American pastor from Idaho who was setting up an orphanage in Iran in 2012 when he was detained.
The fourth American freed was Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, who did not travel on the plane that departed Tehran on Sunday.
The fifth American, Matthew Trevithick, who went to Iran in September to study Farsi at a language center affiliated with Tehran University, was seen in photographs in the Boston Globe returning to family in Massachusetts on Sunday.
Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Frances Kerry and Sandra Maler