Clinton: US Believes Iran Will Free Hikers

Posted September 15th, 2011 at 7:40 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States remains hopeful that Iran will, as a humanitarian gesture, release the two American hikers jailed in a Tehran prison.

Secretary Clinton Thursday said the U.S. is not unduly concerned because Washington has received word through a number of public and private sources that the hikers – Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal – would be freed.

She said it is not unusual for Iran to take time in implementing decisions, noting previous delays.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told NBC news Tuesday the hikers would be freed within “a couple of days.” But in a statement Wednesday, Iran's judiciary said no decision had been made about their fate.

Meanwhile, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has joined efforts to help free Bauer and Fattal.

Iraq's foreign minister told U.S. and Iraqi officials in Baghdad Thursday his government is making a serious attempt to help free the men, who were arrested near the Iran-Iraq border in 2009 and convicted of spying.

Iran's Sharq newspaper quoted Kurdish Iraqi envoy Nazem Dabbagh Thursday as saying Mr. Talabani intervened after a request from the hikers' family. He said the men will be turned over to the Swiss embassy in Tehran next week.

Oman has also sent an official to Iran to help secure the hikers' freedom. The Gulf Arab country negotiated the release of a third American hiker, Sarah Shourd, who was freed one year ago in Tehran.

The Associated Press reported that an Omani plane is in Tehran ready to ferry the men out if they are released.

Fattal and Bauer's lawyer, Masoud Shafii, said he has been notified by the court that his clients will be released once they each post bail, reportedly set at $500,000.

The hikers' families said this week they were “overjoyed” about reports that the men may soon be released, calling the news a “huge relief.”

Bauer and Fatal were sentenced last month to eight-year prison terms for the spying charges. The pair has insisted that if they strayed over the border into Iran, it was inadvertent.