US Hikers Freed by Iran Arrive in Oman

Posted September 21st, 2011 at 3:56 pm (UTC-5)
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Two American hikers who had been jailed in Iran since 2009 have arrived in Oman and were greeted by their families in a joyful reunion.

A plane carrying Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal arrived in the Omani capital, Muscat, late Wednesday. It is the first leg of their journey back to the United States.

CNN television quoted Omani officials as saying the two men will likely stay in the country for one or two days before departing for the U.S.

Earlier Wednesday, Bauer and Fattal were handed over to an Omani delegation after a judge approved an order for their release on a combined bail of $1 million.

Iranian authorities had detained Bauer, Fattal and a third American, Sarah Shourd, on spying charges in 2009. Tehran said they illegally crossed into the country from Iraq. Iran freed Shourd last year on $500,000 bail and she returned to the United States.

The families of all three hikers have released a statement saying their relief over Fattal and Bauer's freedom “knows no bounds.” They also say they want to embrace the two men and “catch up on two lost years.”

In August, an Iranian court had sentenced Bauer and Fattal to eight years in prison on spying convictions.

All three Americans had maintained their innocence and said they were hiking in the mountains of northern Iraq while on vacation. They said that if they crossed the unmarked border into Iran, it was by mistake.

The release of the two men came a day before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Analysts say Mr. Ahmadinejad may have been hoping to use the release to gain some international approval. Iranian media say he will focus on a theme of global management in his annual speech before the world body.