Iran to release 2 jailed American hikers today

September 21st, 2011 by Staff

www.latimes.com – The lawyer for two Americans jailed as spies in Iran says a $1 million bail-for-freedom deal has been approved by the courts.

Two Americans jailed as spies in Iran will be released on Wednesday, their lawyer said, after the court approved a $1 million bail-for-freedom deal that cleared the way for the release of the men following more than two years in custody.

The Iranian attorney for the two, Masoud Shafiei, said he planned to go to Tehran’s Evin prison to begin the procedure for the release of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal.

“The case is over,” Shafiei said. “The court has ordered that they be freed on bail.”

They were arrested along the Iran-Iraq border in July 2009 and sentenced last month to eight years each in prison. A third American in the group, Sarah Shourd, was freed last year on bail.

Shafiei said he would meet the two Americans at 3:00 p.m. at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

They will then be handed over to the Swiss diplomats who represent American interests in Iran because the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Iran.

“Now we can say they are finally free,” the lawyer told The Associated Press. “They can go to the U.S. the way (their friend) Sarah did.”

The case of Bauer and Fattal, who were convicted of spying for the United States, has deepened the mistrust between Washington and Tehran.

Shafiei said the bail of $500,000 for each of the men was posted after some last-minute problems in the bank were resolved. He did not say what the source of the money was.

“There is no obstacle to their freedom now,” the lawyer said. “It’s only a matter of time before they are out of jail.”

The release of the pair will likely follow the pattern of that of Shourd, who was set free last September after a $500,000 bails was posted. She was then flown on a private plane to the Omani capital, Muscat.

Last week, Oman dispatched a plane belonging to the Gulf country’s ruler to fetch the two Americans if the freedom-for-bail was reached.

Omani officials declined to comment on the ongoing proceedings for the Americans’ release. They only said the private plane, sent from Muscat to the Iranian capital last Wednesday, was still in Tehran.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The three Americans — friends from their days at the University of California at Berkeley — have maintained their innocence and denied the espionage charges against them.

Their families say they were just hiking in northern Iraq’s scenic and relatively peaceful Kurdish region when they may have accidentally strayed over the unmarked border with Iran.

Since her release last year, Shourd has lived in Oakland, California. Bauer, a freelance journalist, grew up in Onamia, Minnesota, and Fattal, an environmental activist, is from suburban Philadelphia.

Bauer proposed marriage to Shourd while in prison.


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