The government of Oman paid the one million dollar bail that Iran demanded in order to buy the freedom of two Americans who had been arrested as spies on July 31, 2009, but who denied this, claiming they were merely on a hiking trip along the Iran-Iraq border.
Hikers or Spies?
Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, along with a third person, Sarah Shourd, Bauer’s fiancée, were held in Teheran’s Evin prison on suspicion of spying for the United States. The incident created a sensation, and the help of several countries was enlisted to gain the men’s freedom.
Shourd was released one year ago in exchange for the payment of $500,000, but the two men were sentenced to eight years imprisonment last month as convicted spies, but due to the intervention of Oman and other countries, were finally released last Wednesday, September 21st .
Closed Door Trial
No evidence was ever made public to indicate that either of the Americans were indeed spies, with the trial being conducted entirely behind closed doors. Since the US and Iran do not have diplomatic ties, and haven’t since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, it was necessary for other countries to lobby on behalf of the trio of young Americans.
The pair was first flown to Oman after their release, where Bauer made a short statement on behalf of himself and Fattal.
“Two years is too long in a prison,” he stated. “We sincerely hope for the freedom of other political prisoners and other unjustly imprisoned people in America and Iran.”
Humanitarian Gesture on Eve of UN Speech
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the release of the two last week, saying that it was a humanitarian gesture on the eve of his scheduled annual visit to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
US President Barack Obama reacted positively to the news of the men’s release.
“It was the right thing to do. They shouldn’t have been held in the first place,” Obama told reporters who were on hand for the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.
Lawyer Pleased with Outcome
The lawyer for the falsely accused pair, Masoud Shafie, said that Oman had paid the $1 million bail for both men, and then described his feelings at the news of his clients’ release: “I am happy. They were my clients. We tried for nearly two years and gained the results we wanted.”
Iraqi officials stated that their president, Jalal Talabani also was involved in the negotiations to have the men freed. The Swiss Embassy did what it could to influence Iran as well, although the Swiss ambassador Livia Leu Agosti was not permitted entrance into the Evin prison and was forced to wait outside in the car until the men were officially released.