Iran frees American hikers convicted of spying

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

TEHRAN, Iran — Two American hikers convicted of
spying in Iran and sentenced to eight years in prison were freed
Wednesday in a legal and diplomatic drama that ended after negotiations
over bail and infighting between the Iranian president and the country’s

Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, both
29-year-old graduates of University of California Berkeley, were
released from Tehran’s Evin Prison after judges agreed to accept a
combined bail of $1 million. The Americans were turned over to the Swiss
ambassador, who represents U.S. interests in Iran, and were expected to
be flown out of the country, although it was uncertain where they were
to be taken.

The two men got into a car with
envoys from the Persian Gulf country of Oman, which was involved in
negotiating their release and reportedly had a plane waiting at the
Tehran airport. The car left the prison in a convoy guarded by a police

“They are bailed out,” said a statement from Iran’s judiciary.

appearance of the two hikers outside the prison walls ends a two-year
ordeal that further strained relations between Washington and Tehran.
Bauer, Fattal and their companion, Sarah Shourd, were arrested in 2009
while backpacking along the Iran-Iraq border. They were accused of
espionage, a charge they denied. Shourd was released last year on
$500,000 bail.

Their lawyer, Masoud Shafii, said: “Now we can say they are finally free. They can go to the U.S. the way Sarah did.”

that the two men would be released were raised last week when Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced they would be freed as a
goodwill gesture. But their fate quickly became ensnared in the struggle
between Ahmadinejad and Iran’s conservative judiciary, which
embarrassed the president by delaying its decision.

was not supposed to have a say in releasing the U.S. hikers,” said
Farid Modarresi, a political analyst in Tehran. “But he sold the news to
the foreign media to promote his own image” before his arrival at the
United Nations on Tuesday.

After he landed in New York, Ahmadinejad told ABC News that releasing the Americans would be “a humanitarian decision.”

a freelance journalist, grew up in Onamia, Minn., and Fattal, an
environmental activist, is from suburban Philadelphia. Bauer proposed
marriage to Shroud, who lives in Oakland, while in prison. The two men
last saw family members in May 2010 when their mothers visited them in

The hikers said they mistakenly crossed into Iran while exploring the rugged Kurdish region in northern Iraq.


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