Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, American hikers who have been imprisoned in Iran's notorious Evin Prison for more than two years, were released today. Bauer and Fattal, both 29, were originally arrested along with another hiker, Sarah Shourd, in July 2009. The three were hiking in Iraq and crossed an unmarked border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran. They were accused by the Iranian government of being spies.
Masoud Shafiei, the Iranian lawyer for the imprisoned hikers, informed reporters today that the bail of one million dollars had posted and that the paperwork to free the hikers had been signed.
While Shourd was released a year ago under medical complications, Bauer and Fattal remained imprisoned. Appeals for their release came from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, renowned journalist Laura Ling, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Nobel Peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta and Muhammad Ali, among other prominent figures.
Shourd herself met with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after her release, and appealed for the release of her fellow hikers.
"I have no animosity towards him or the government," she told reporters.
In the summer of 2010, the hikers' mothers had the opportunity to visit them in prison.
"These are our children, and there's nothing quite as anguishing as thinking about your kids in prison in a country so far away and being unable to help them," Nora Shourd told reporters.
In August, Iran had sentenced Bauer and Fattal to eight years in prison. But in September Ahmadinejad told NBC that he thought the hikers would be freed on humanitarian grounds within "a couple of days.”
An interfaith group of Christian and Muslim leaders returned to Washington, D.C. on Monday after traveling to Iran and meeting personally with Ahmadinejad and appealing for the hikers' release. While in Iran, high-level government officials assured the group that the hikers' release was eminent.
Regarding the interfaith mission, Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), said: "Our goal has been to foster interfaith ties, build a system of understanding and ask the Iranian leadership to show compassion and mercy for the American hikers by allowing them to come home."
Bauer and Fattal have both been released to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.
In an interview with the Daily Beast at the end of 2010, Sarah Shourd talked about her own time in prison and the ongoing agony of knowing the plight of her fellow hikers, prior to today's news of their release. “I take life one day at a time,” she said.
Kristin Butler is a contributing writer at Crosswalk.com, where she covers topics related to human rights, religious freedom and refugee resettlement. For further articles, visit her website at kristinbutler.net or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publication date: September 21, 2011