Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Iran releases US men jailed as spies

Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, two US citizens jailed in Iran as spies, freed from Tehran prison on $1m bail.

Two US men who had been held as spies in Iran for more than two years have been released on bail from their Tehran jail.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal left Tehran's Evin prison on Wednesday, shortly after their lawyer Masoud Shafiei said he had completed the paperwork for their release.
"I have finished the job that I had to do as their lawyer,'' Shafiei said.

Immediately after their release, Bauer and Fattal left for Mehrabad airport, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported, and later flew to the Gulf state of Oman.
They arrived in Oman several hours later, the AP news agency reported, where their families were waiting to greet them.
Swiss and Omani representation

The Swiss ambassador to Tehran and a delegation from Oman were present when the two American prisoners were freed.

The men were released into the custody of the Swiss embassy, as Washington has no diplomatic relations with Tehran and its interests are looked after by the Swiss.

Oman, a US Gulf ally which has good relations with Iran, agreed to pay the two men's bail of $1m, $500,000 for each.
US President Barack Obama welcomed their release in a statement on Wednesday, saying he was pleased that they were being reunited with their loved ones, and expressing gratitude to several foreign officials for their help.

"We are deeply grateful to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, the Swiss government, and to all our partners and allies around the world who have worked steadfastly over the past two years to secure the release of Shane and Josh," the statement said.
Charges denied

Fattal and Bauer were arrested in July 2009 near Iran's border with Iraq, and sentenced last month to eight years in prison on charges of spying for the US and illegally entering Iran.

A third person with whom they were arrested, Sarah Shourd, was freed in September 2010 on a $500,000 bail payment.
The three US citizens have denied the charges of spying and repeatedly said they were hiking in the area when they were detained.
Their families and the US government also said they were hiking in northern Iraq's Kurdish region when they may have accidentally strayed over the unmarked border with Iran.
Iranians in US jails
The affair heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington, which severed diplomatic ties after the storming of the US embassy in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Mohammad Marandi, professor of political science at the University of Tehran, told Al Jazeera that the US citizens were "treated quite well" while many Iranians are held in solitary confinement in the US for a variety of reasons.
"The Iranians have many of their people in American prisons," Marandi said.
"There are a number of Iranians that have been put in jail in solitary confinement in the US for doing trade with Iran; there are others that have been put in jail on charges that are completely baseless.
"There is a great deal of suspicion about the Americans in Iran. The Iranians believe they were spies.
"If three Iranians were arrested crossing into the United States from the Mexican border ... and the Americans had captured them, do you think the Americans would release them if the Iranians demanded their release?"