Ahmadinejad says Iran to free US men jailed as spies

By REUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF
September 13, 2011 17:36

Iranian president says hikers Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal will be released in two days after receiving 8 year prison sentence for spying charges.

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US hikers Bauer and Fattal attend Tehran trial.

US hikers_311 reuters. (photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday in an interview with the Washington Post that he was arranging for the release of two American hikers convicted of spying in Iran.

“I am helping to arrange for their release in a couple of days so they will be able to return home... This is of course going to be a unilateral humanitarian gesture,” Ahmadinejad said.

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Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were arrested in July 2009 near Iran's border with Iraq, where they say they were hiking in the mountains. A third American, Sarah Shourd, was freed in September 2010 and returned home.

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The US network NBC, which interviewed Ahmadinejad in Iran, said in a Twitter message that the Iranian president said Bauer and Fattal would be released in two days. The interview was due to air later on Tuesday on NBC's Today show.

Bauer and Fattal were arrested on July 31, 2009 near Iran's border with Iraq, along with a third American, Sarah Shourd, who was freed on $500,000 bail in September 2010 and returned home.

The trio, in their late 20s and early 30s, say they were hiking in the mountains of northern Iraq and, if they crossed the unmarked border into Iran, it was by mistake.

"In connection with illegal entry into Iranian territory each was given three years in jail and in connection with the charge of cooperating with American intelligence service, each was given five years in jail," a state TV website said, quoting what it called an informed judiciary source.

The affair has compounded tensions between Tehran and Washington, which have had no diplomatic relations since the storming of the US embassy after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.


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