WASHINGTON Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian headed home to the United States on Friday, days after being freed from 18 months in prison in Iran as part of a historic prisoner exchange between Tehran and the United States.
The Post's owner and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) founder Jeff Bezos accompanied the Iranian-American journalist and his family on the flight to the United States on a private jet, the Post reported.
The newspaper printed a picture of Bezos with his arm around Rezaian's shoulder and both men smiling aboard an aircraft. The caption said it showed the two men before taking off for the United States from Saarbruecken, Germany, on Friday.
Rezaian, who had been staying in Germany after leaving Iran on Sunday, said he was grateful for his newfound freedom but was not yet ready to talk about his imprisonment.
"At some point, I will be ready to discuss my ordeal but for now, I just want to express my profound appreciation for the tremendous support I have received," he said in a statement.
"Today, I am incredibly thankful for my family, my fellow journalists, my colleagues at the Washington Post, and everyone else who fought for my freedom," he said.
The prisoner swap was announced as world powers, including the United States, implemented a landmark nuclear deal with Iran that eased tensions between Tehran and the West. In exchange for the release of five Americans from Iran, the White House offered clemency to seven Iranians who were convicted or facing trial in the United States.
Two other Americans freed by Iran, a Christian minister and a former U.S. Marine, returned to the United States on Thursday.
Rezaian, who was born in California and holds dual U.S. and Iranian citizenship, was accused of espionage by Iran. He and his wife Yeganeh Salehi, who is Iranian, were arrested in July 2014, although she was later freed.
Rezaian's brother Ali along with executives at the Post had led the effort to seek their release, urging the Obama administration to press the issue with Iran.
After his release, Rezaian spent several days at the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. Rezaian and his family had dinner with Bezos on the base on Thursday, the Post said.
"Like all of us, he is incredibly happy they are safe and sound," Post spokeswoman Kristine Coratti Kelly was quoted by the newspaper as saying of Bezos.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Mohammad Zargham; Editing by James Dalgleish and Alistair Bell)