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CA Man Home after Release from Iranian Prison

A California businessman who spent more than two years in an Iranian prison after being accused of passing money to a rebel group returned home Thursday.

Reza Taghavi, 71, arrived at Los Angeles International Airport at about 7 p.m. with his attorney, former U.S. diplomat Pierre Prosper, who won Taghavi's release after talks with Iranian envoys.

Taghavi cleared customs and was meeting separately with his immediate family before greeting dozens of supporters who gathered at the airport, airport spokesman Albert Rodriguez said. An 8:30 p.m. news conference was scheduled.

Taghavi, an Orange County resident who regularly visits Iran to conduct business, was jailed on allegations that he passed $200 to someone suspected of links to a rebel group called Tondar. Tondar is suspected of a 2008 mosque bombing that killed 14 people in the southern city of Shiraz.

Taghavi was never charged and denies knowingly supporting the faction. He was freed Saturday after 29 months in prison and had to meet with survivors of the bombing as a condition of his release.

He told AP Television News in Iran that he was given the money by an acquaintance in the United States. He said his friend took advantage of his trust and that he plans to sue him.

His daughter, Leila Taghavi, said earlier this year that her father is kind and giving, and his impulse to help people got him into trouble.

Taghavi's release comes as Iran is under international sanctions over its nuclear program. The U.S. and allies believe Iran could use its nuclear labs to eventually produce weapons-grade material, while Iran claims it only wants reactors to produce energy.

Prosper has said American officials were excluded from five rounds of negotiations over Taghavi to avoid having his client become a bargaining chip.

Taghavi's lengthy imprisonment was much less known than the case of three American hikers who were detained along Iran's border with Iraq last year and accused of spying.

One member of the trio, Sarah Shourd, was recently released on $500,000 and returned to the U.S. Her companions, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, remain jailed in Iran and could face trial on espionage charges.

Shourd and families of the two men deny any crime was committed and contend that if the trio did cross the border into Iran, it was an accident.

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