FRANKFURT, Germany — Washington Post owner Jeffrey P. Bezos met privately with Jason Rezaian and his family in Germany before accompanying them back to the United States nearly a week after the Post journalist was freed from Iranian custody, a spokeswoman said Friday.
Bezos, the founder of Amazon, had not previously disclosed his travel plans to meet Rezaian, who was released last Saturday after nearly 18 months imprisoned in Iran.
Rezaian and his family had dinner with Bezos on Thursday on a U.S. Army installation in Germany, where the 39-year-old reporter had received medical care. Bezos then flew the family home on a private jet, said Post spokeswoman Kristine Coratti Kelly.
“Like all of us, he is incredibly happy they are safe and sound,” Kelly said.
Over the weekend, Bezos publicly expressed joy at Rezaian’s release. “Wheels up and out of Iranian airspace! Jason, Yegi, and Mary aboard,” Bezos tweeted Sunday, referring to Rezaian’s wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and his mother, Mary Breme Rezaian.
A photo taken shortly before their departure Friday shows Bezos and Rezaian smiling aboard the private aircraft decorated with streamers and posters with the message #FreeJason. Bezos purchased The Post in 2013.
Earlier, Rezaian issued a statement saying he was “feeling well” despite an ordeal that included 49 days in solitary confinement and health complications such as periodic infections and acute weight loss while he was in Tehran’s Evin Prison.
Rezaian left Iran on Sunday — nearly 25 hours after his release from prison — on a Swiss air force jet with his wife, mother and two other Iranian American former prisoners after extensive negotiations between the U.S. and Iranian governments.
The talks culminated in a deal to free four American detainees in exchange for clemency for seven Iranians charged or imprisoned in the United States in relation to sanctions violations, and the dismissal of charges against 14 Iranians outside the United States.
Rezaian, his wife, mother and brother had stayed at a guest house on a U.S. military base in Landstuhl, Germany, since then.
“Today my family and I left Landstuhl to return home to the United States,” Rezaian said in a statement released Friday. “I appreciate the exceptional care I received from the doctors and medical staff, as well as the hospitality we were shown during our stay on the base.”
He also thanked the Obama administration and the Swiss Foreign Ministry, as well as all others who worked to secure his freedom.
Rezaian did not give any interviews while in Germany. The journalist said in a separate statement earlier this week that he would like “to get back to writing the U.S.-Iran story at some point in the future” but for now wanted to take some time off and to enjoy being with his family.
His brother, Ali Rezaian, said in a statement that Jason was showing “his characteristic warmth, humor and inquisitiveness” and that he “looked forward to Jason reconnecting with my son and to the three of us watching a Warriors game together” — a reference to the Golden State Warriors basketball team. Jason Rezaian was born in Marin County, Calif., to an Iranian father and an American mother. He moved to Iran in 2008.
Salehi, his wife, said in a statement issued Friday that she was “thrilled to be going to the United States and thankful beyond words for the overwhelming support Jason and our family have received from so many people.”
Rezaian underwent a closed-door trial on vague charges of espionage and other alleged offenses. In October, he was convicted, but the length of his sentence was never made public. The Post said no evidence had been presented of any wrongdoing by Rezaian.
Salehi also faced similar charges but was free on bail.
His detention, which lasted more than 500 days, is the longest for a Western journalist held in Iran.
Salehi, who is an Iranian citizen, was traveling with a special U.S. government document authorizing her to enter the United States on a humanitarian basis.
Salehi’s Iranian passport was seized by the Iranian government.
She had been in the process of being granted a U.S. green card at the time she and Jason Rezaian were arrested in 2014.
Salehi shed tears of joy in an otherwise deserted waiting room after her entry was approved, and she embraced a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer who greeted her aboard the plane.
“I’m ashamed because my own country treated me so badly,” she said. “Everything my new country is doing has been so kind.”
Jason Rezaian said he and Salehi had been deeply moved by what he called a “special experience” that expedited his wife’s entry into the United States. Rezaian himself was traveling on a temporary U.S. passport issued to him in Germany to replace travel documents seized and kept by Iran. Rezaian has asked for privacy and also requested that his port of entry into the United States not be disclosed.
Two other Iranian Americans freed in Iran and taken to Landstuhl under the prisoner deal, Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine, and Saeed Abedini, an evangelical pastor, have only briefly discussed their experiences in prison. Another Iranian American prisoner who was released, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, did not leave the country with the others.
Abedini was said to have left Landstuhl on Thursday and has not spoken to reporters since his return.
Hekmati, speaking with journalists on Tuesday, said that his time in prison was “not good” and that his experience as a Marine had helped him endure “inhumane” treatment. He described a champagne-soaked party as the jet with the prisoners cleared Iranian airspace. He had been in prison for almost 4
Elahe Izadi in Washington contributed to this report.