Amir Hekmati, one of the Americans freed from Iran in a prisoner swap, said Tuesday he couldn't wait to return to his home in Michigan.

"I feel alive for the first time," the 32-year-old retired Marine told reporters outside a hospital in Germany, one day after an emotional reunion there with his family.

Even his final few moments in Iran were tense. Hekmati claimed nobody inside the Swiss government plane celebrated until it left Iranian airspace. Then, "champagne corks were popped."

He added, "I feel extremely blessed."

 

Hekmati, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and pastor Saeed Abedini arrived late Sunday at the U.S. military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for treatment. A fourth American released in exchange for the U.S. pardoning or dropping charges against seven Iranians opted to stay in Iran, and a fifth American was released separately.

Hekmati was detained in August 2011 on espionage charges. Hekmati says he went to Iran to visit family and spend time with his ailing grandmother. After his arrest, family members say they were told to keep the matter quiet.

He was convicted of spying and sentenced to death in 2012. After a higher court ordered a retrial, he was sentenced in 2014 to 10 years on a lesser charge.

Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat from Michigan, said he had a steak dinner Monday night with Hekmati as well as Hekmati's two sisters and brother, and that he seemed in "pretty good spirits" for someone who had been incarcerated for so long.

"We talked a bit about his experience, but I think he was just appreciating his freedom and trying to enjoy it as much as he could," Kildee said.

Hekmati was born in Arizona and raised in Michigan. His family is in the Flint area. He and his family deny any wrongdoing, and say his imprisonment included physical and mental torture and long periods of solitary confinement in a tiny cell.

Kildee said he looked forward to talking more with Hekmati about his experience in the coming months but did already learn some details.

"We talked about a few of the aspects of his incarceration, (he) described the prison conditions as being bleak as we know them to be by reputation, described the fact that he had been told he was going to be released on several occasions, so even when this moment came he wasn't sure it was really true until he was at the airport," he said.

"In some ways that was another way to sort of provide psychological torture -- to continue to torment him with his release."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.