Moral Low Ground


American Hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal Freed from Iranian Prison

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, two Americans imprisoned as spies in Iran for over two years, have been released on bail today, CNN reports.

According to U.S. accounts, the two young men, now both age 29, were hiking with friend Sarah Shourd in Iraqi Kurdistan in July 2009 when they accidentally strayed into Iranian territory. They were apprehended and imprisoned. Shourd was released one year ago due to medical concerns; Bauer and Fattal were convicted last month of illegally entering Iran and spying for the United States. They were each sentenced to eight years behind bars.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had recently hinted that they would soon be released, but the country’s judiciary retorted that only it could take such action. A high-level delegation of religious leaders traveled to Iran last week where they met with Ahmadinejad to urge the Americans’ release.

Next came the announcement that paperwork clearing the way for the two men to be released on bail had been filed, but their release was delayed yet again by the absence of a judge’s signature on the documents. Apparently the judge was on vacation.

But now it appears as if Bauer and Fattal are finally free. Masoud Shafiee, their Iranian attorney, says that $500,000 dollars bail for each prisoner has been paid to secure their release. It is unclear who paid the bail. U.S. and Iranian officials confirm the release, and Swiss and Omani diplomats are waiting outside Evin Prison in northwestern Tehran to receive them.

Since the United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran, Switzerland represents U.S. interests in the Islamic republic. Oman, located on the Arabian peninsula, had been instrumental in securing Shourd’s release as well as that of the two young men.

President Ahmadinejad is traveling to New York where he is scheduled to speak before the United Nations General Assembly tomorrow.

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