At least four other American citizens are imprisoned in Iran at this time, and President Trump on Sept. 21 called for their release. Hekmati was released in a prisoner swap when the Iran-U. S. nuclear deal took effect.

Collecting judgments from Iran has been a struggle for more than 1,000 Americans who have successfully sued under an exception for state-sponsored terrorism in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The act generally bars U.S. individuals from suing foreign governments. However, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 upheld the award of $2 billion in frozen Iranian funds to families of victims of those killed or injured in the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut and other attacks blamed on Iran.