US Hikers Freed by Iran Enjoying Family Reunions in Oman

Posted September 22nd, 2011 at 11:00 am (UTC-5)
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Two American hikers released from an Iranian prison after more than two years in custody have spent their first full day of freedom with relatives in the Gulf State of Oman.

A brother-in-law of Shane Bauer, one of the hikers, said Thursday family members were “really happy to be together.”

Brother-in-law Nate Lindstrom in the United States said he was told about the reunion from his wife Nicole, who was in the Omani capital, Muscat, to greet her brother and the other hiker, Josh Fattal.

Iran freed the two men Wednesday from Tehran's Evin Prison on payment of a $1 million bail and a plane flew them later in the day to Oman, whose leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said helped to secure the release. Lindstrom said there was no word on when Bauer and Fattal will return to the United States.

In brief statements at the airport, Fattal said the two are “so happy” to be free, while Bauer added that “two years in prison is too long.” Bauer also said he hopes their release will bring “freedom for political prisoners in America and Iran.” An Iranian court sentenced them last month to eight years in prison on charges of spying and illegally entering the country.

Iranian authorities detained Fattal, Bauer and a third American, Sarah Shourd, in July 2009 along the Iran-Iraq border and freed Shourd on bail last year, allowing her to return to the United States. The three said they were hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan and denied the charges against them, saying that if they crossed into Iran, it was by mistake.

In Washington, President Barack Obama welcomed Bauer and Fattal's release, saying the “tireless advocacy” of their families won his admiration. Mr. Obama also thanked U.S. allies who worked to free them, including the Omani sultan, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the Swiss government.