Amir Hekmati
Amir HekmatiReuters

Amir Hekmati, the former American Marine who was held in an Iranian prison and freed as part of a prisoner swap between the United States and Iran, arrived home in Flint, Michigan on Thursday, where he thanked everyone from the president to “everyday Americans” for their support, reports ABC News.

Hekmati, who was arrested in Iran 2011, was put on trial and found guilty of spying for the CIA. He was subsequently sentenced to death, a penalty that was eventually overturned and reduced to 10 years in prison.

Hekmati’s family and the U.S. government repeatedly stressed that he was not a spy and went to Iran to visit his grandmother, but Iran refused to release him until this past Saturday’s prisoner swap, which came hours before the sanctions on Iran were lifted as part of the implementation of the nuclear deal.

“It’s great to be back in Flint. It’s my hometown. I love this city,” the 32-year-old told reporters upon his arrival on Thursday.

“It’s been a very long road, a very long journey... But despite all the difficulties, thank God, thanks to everyone’s support – everyone from the president, Congressman [Rep. Dan] Kildee, everyday Americans. I’m standing here healthy, tall, with my head held high,” he added.

Rep. Kildee (D-MI) represents the district in which the Hekmati family lives and has been a longtime advocate for Hekmati’s release. He traveled to Germany with Hekmati’s sister to greet the freed prisoner, reported ABC News.

Along with Hekmati, four other Americans were released last weekend in exchange for the U.S. releasing seven Iranians either convicted or awaiting trial in the U.S.

Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, and Nosratollah Khosrawi were all freed by the Islamic regime as part of the deal, in addition to Hekmati.

A fifth American citizen, Matthew Trevithick, was also released by Tehran that day, though Iranian officials said his release was unconnected to the prisoner swap.

Not included in the swap was former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished during a trip to Iran in 2007, disappearing on Kish Island off Iran's coast.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said earlier this week that the United States has “reason to believe” that Levinson is “no longer in Iran” and had mentioned that belief “several years ago.”