US 'hikers' leave Iranian jail, head to airport

Omani officials drive US citizens to the airport; Two men were held in Tehran for two years on espionage allegations.

By REUTERS
September 21, 2011 17:43
1 minute read.
US hikers Bauer and Fattal attend Tehran trial.

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

 
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TEHRAN - Two US men who have been held as spies in Iran for more than two years left their Tehran jail on Wednesday, accompanied by Omani officials who, according to a diplomatic source, drove them to an airport.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have been in Iranian custody since their arrest on July 31, 2009 on the border with Iraq where they say they were hiking.

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The deal to release them was delayed because the judge in charge of the trial - who had to sign off on the agreement - was on vacation until yesterday. The judiciary had said on Tuesday that their release was not imminent, reflecting a rift between the country's ruling and hard-line elites.

Lawyer Masoud Shafie had said last week that the men would be released on $500,000 bail each. A third American, Sarah Shourd, was arrested with the men but was allowed home on $500,000 bail in September 2010.

Shourd's release was similarly delayed for several days by the judiciary after it had been announced.

Washington has denied the three Americans were spies and their supporters complain that no evidence against them has been made public. Their trial took place behind closed doors.

Ahmadinejad's announcement, to US media, that the men would be freed was seen by analysts as a bid to improve his international standing ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting which starts on Wednesday.

Neighboring Iraq said it has helped to mediate the release.

Jpost.com staff contributed to this report.

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