September 21st, 2011
05:28 PM ET

'Two years in prison is too long,' released hiker says

American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were released from an Iranian prison Wednesday and made their way to Oman.

The two Americans were released on bail of $500,000 each and their sentences were commuted, Iran's judiciary said, according to government-run Press TV.

Bauer and Fattal, both 29, were convicted last month of entering Iran illegally and spying for the United States, and each was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Follow the latest developments below:

[Updated at 5:28 p.m. ET] Released U.S. hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer made brief statements to assembled media after arriving in Oman.

"We are so happy we are free, and so relieved we are free," Fattal said. "Our deepest gratitude goes towards his majesty, Sultan Qaboos of Oman, for obtaining our release. We are sincerely grateful (to) the government of Oman for hosting us an our families."

Bauer said: "Two years in prison is too long, and we sincerely hope for the freedom of other political prisoners and other unjustly imprisoned people in American and Iran."

They departed after making the statements and took no questions.

[Updated at 4:28 p.m. ET] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released the following statement regarding the hikers' release:

"I join President Obama in welcoming the decision made by Iranian authorities to release Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal from detention. After more than two years, they will finally be reunited with their friends and families.

"I am grateful for the efforts of all those who have worked for their release, in particular the Swiss Protecting Power in Tehran, the Omani government, the Iraqi government, and the many other world leaders who have raised their voices in support, as well as those inside Iran who pushed for justice."

[Updated at 3:43 p.m. ET] Family members of the two hikers held close onto each other as they walked off the tarmac at an Omani airport and into the terminal.

It is unclear whether the family members or the two men Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer will be holding a press conference to discuss what it was like to be reunited after the two men had been jailed for two years in Iran.

[Updated at 3:42 p.m. ET] Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, the American hikers who were jailed in Iran for two years, raced down the stairs of an Omani plane into the arms of their families.

Loud cheers erupted as the door of the plane opened. Media cameras surrounded the pair as they reunited for the first time with their families.

"It's a very, very emotional moment," CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom reported, noting that family members were crying when they first hugged the two men.

[Updated at 3:36 p.m. ET] The plane carrying the two American hikers released from Iran on Wednesday has landed in Oman.

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom reported that the families of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer are waiting on the tarmac for them.

The family members are hugging, smiling, and waiving at the plane as they wait for the doors to open and get a peek of the family members they haven't seen or spoken to in two years.

[Updated at 3:33 p.m. ET] Josh Fattal’s uncle Fred Felleman, shortly before the plane landed in Oman, told CNN that he’s excited that the hikers are free. Asked whether he knew anything about Fattal’s plans, Felleman said he knew his nephew was studying for the GRE.

“He had the GRE test book, so he might be interested in graduate school,” Felleman said.

Shane Bauer’s brother-in-law, speaking to CNN from Duluth, Minnesota, said he is “so happy that it’s just finally going to be over.”

Nate Lindstrom said his wife, who is with her family in Oman, called him this morning to tell him that the release might come today.

“I actually found out at about 4 a.m. this morning. My wife called me and said, ‘I think something’s going to happen today, so be prepared,’” Lindstrom said.

“It’s been really long and really frustrating, but we never gave up hope that it was going to end,” he added.

[Updated at 2:59 p.m. ET] Freed hiker Josh Fattal spoke with his brother, Alex, by phone after the release, according to a source familiar with the hikers’ release.

Family members of both Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer are on their way to the airport in Muscat, Oman. It’s not clear whether Bauer was able to speak with his parents or his fiancée, Sarah Shourd, according to the source.

The families’ spokeswoman Samantha Topping declined to confirm the report. She did say Josh Fattal's brother "sounded great and so did Cindy (Shane’s mother)."

The family has no details yet about how long everyone will stay in Oman before heading to the U.S.

[Updated at 2:04 p.m. ET] The relatives of the two hikers released from Iran on Wednesday are on their way to an airport in Oman to greet them, a spokeswoman for the group says.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were released from an Iranian prison and have taken off from Tehran, bound for Oman, their lawyer and the Swiss ambassador to Tehran said previously.

[Updated at 1:43 p.m. ET] The families of the two hikers released from Iran on Wednesday issued the following statement after the pair had left Tehran:

"Today can only be described as the best day of our lives.  We have waited for nearly 26 months for this moment and the joy and relief we feel at Shane and Josh's long-awaited freedom knows no bounds.  We now all want nothing more than to wrap Shane and Josh in our arms, catch up on two lost years and make a new beginning, for them and for all of us.  For now, we especially would like to thank His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said of Oman and his envoy Dr. Salem Al Ismaily; our lawyer, Mr. Masoud Shafii; and the Swiss Ambassador to Iran, Livia Leu Agosti, and her colleagues, for working to make today a reality.  At the same time, our deep gratitude extends to many, many others, from governments, institutions and noted campaigners to tens of thousands of people around the world.  Their support for Shane, Josh, Sarah and our families has sustained us and comforted us throughout this time.  Our appreciation for the warmth and love of our fellow human beings is unending and we know that Shane and Josh will always be grateful."

[Updated at 1:31 p.m. ET] Two American hikers freed Wednesday from an Iranian prison have taken off from Tehran bound for Oman, their lawyer and the Swiss ambassador to Tehran told CNN.

The families of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal - as well as fellow hiker Sarah Shourd, who was freed last year on medical grounds and is Bauer's fiancee - are waiting to meet them in Oman.

[Updated at 12:17 p.m. ET] A convoy of cars carrying the released American hikers has just arrived at Tehran's Mehrabad International Airport, CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr reports. That contradicts an earlier report from Iran's state-run IRNA news agency that the hikers' plane had departed for Oman.

[Updated at 11:42 a.m. ET] An airplane carrying American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer has left Tehran, the country's state-run IRNA news agency reports. The plane's destination is Muscat, Oman.

[Updated at 10:44 a.m. ET] The government of Oman says American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer have been turned over to the custody of Omani officials and are on their way to the Arabian sultanate.

"You can state officially now that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has handled Shane and Josh to the custody of Dr. Salem Al Ismaily, the envoy of  His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Sultan of Oman, a country that enjoys excellent relationships with both the IRI and the USA. Dr. Al Ismaily with the hikers are now on their way to Muscat where they will spend a couple of days before heading home,” a statement from Oman's envoy in Iran said.

Officials said the hikers are waiting at an Iranian airport for their flight to Oman.

[Updated at 10:08 a.m. ET] Two American hikers have been turned over to the custody of an Omani official, a senior U.S. official tells CNN.

[Updated at 9:58 a.m. ET] Two Omani cars that entered the Evin Prison to pick up the two American hikers have left with a police escort as well as cars carrying people from the Swiss embassy, CNN's Shirzad Bozogmehr reported.

Bozogmehr reported that it is believed the hikers are in that convoy, though nobody was able to see them inside the car.

[Updated at 9:19 a.m. ET] It's likely that two American hikers being released from an Iranian prison will to go to a third country, possibly Oman, upon their release, CNN's Zain Verjee reports. One official told CNN that Oman was on alert to pick up the two Americans and the families have been there for a while. They would likely get medical checkups in Oman and get back to the U.S. as soon as possible, Verjee reported.

[Updated at 9:09 a.m. ET] Masoud Shafiee, lawyer for American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, says outside Tehran's Evin Prison, "In four or five minutes they will be released."

"As soon as they are in the car hopefully we can get a word out of them before we leave," the lawyer said. He could not confirm where the hikers would go upon their release.

[Updated at 8:55a.m. ET] American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer have not yet been seen leaving Tehran's Evin Prison, but their attorney, Masoud Shafiee, went into the facility earlier in the day with paperwork to show that the $500,000 bail had been paid for each of them.

[Updated at 8:37 a.m. ET] Iran's state-run Press TV reports that American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer have been released.

Press TV reported the following on its website: "Branch 36 of Tehran's Appeals Court has agreed to commuted the detention sentences of the two US nationals to release on a bail of USD500,000, a statement released by Iran's Judiciary said on Wednesday."

[Updated at 7:45 a.m. ET] American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were freed from prison in Iran on Wednesday, a U.S. official said, more than two years after they were arrested as spies.

[Updated at 7:21 a.m. ET] The attorney for the U.S. hikers has entered Tehran’s Evin prison, from which the hikers are expected to be released today. The lawyer entered the main building accompanied by officials from the Swiss and Omani embassies. Oman has helped in negotiations to free the hikers.

[Updated at 6:21 a.m. ET] Swiss Ambassador in Iran Livia Leu Agosti told CNN she had not been officially informed of the pending release of two U.S. hikers, but would undertake all duties normally handled by American officials in such circumstances. Switzerland handles United States interests in Tehran because there is no American embassy there.

[Updated at 5:27 a.m. ET] Iran's semi-official FARS news agency says the two American hikers will be handed over to officials from the Swiss Embassy at 3 p.m. local (6:30 a.m. ET) Wednesday.

[Updated at 5:15 a.m. ET] A lawyer for two Americans imprisoned as spies in Iran for more than two years expects to start paperwork for their release Wednesday, he told CNN.

A second judge signed bail paperwork for Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, Masoud Shafiee said, leaving only minor banking details to be sorted out.

Fattal and Bauer were arrested along with a third hiker, Sarah Shourd, in July 2009 after apparently straying over an unmarked border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran. Shourd was freed earlier on medical grounds.

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soundoff (1,018 Responses)
  1. Tom

    I am surprised by the tenor of the comments here. I have been praying for months for the release of these two men, and I rejoice they are free. I have never thought that the accusations of the Iranian government were true. I would be very surprised if these people were any kind of spies. Let's get happy! Some of our fellow citizens are returning home.

    September 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. PiddlyD

    Iran thanks you for your deposit of $1.5 million dollars into their account – which they assure us will only be used for developing nuclear energy sources, not nuclear weapons. Good work, kids, you're real role models for international relations. Can't wait to read all your blogs on CNN when you return.

    September 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Smarter than you

    Whether they were spies or just hikers............ Welcome home

    September 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Gymnp

    Allah Akbar

    September 21, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Iran Sucks

    What an absolute dump of a country.

    September 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • ad

      ud like iran better if they had hanged those 2 i take it

      September 21, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tammy

    Who paid the ransom for their release?

    September 21, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. lisbeth

    YEAH TOM FOR YOUR COMMENT......I AGREE 100%...i have been praying for these boys and they"re families for months.........NO ONE, regardless of why they were there, would ever want a family member, friend, or loved one tortured the way these men were............WELCOME HOME BOYS !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 21, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. mother of four

    As many of you are clearly drowning in a sea of misinformation and lack of understanding–I'm going to throw you a life line. 1) These were not "spoiled college kids"–they are in their late twenties and early thirties. 2) They were not "in a war zone.

    Facts: Two of these three people were living in Syria and had been for at least three years. The woman was an ESL teacher working for a charity organization that aids Syrians and Iraqis who want to immigrate to English speaking countries. Her husband was a writer and free lance journalist. The young man with them was also an educator who worked with a sustainable living organization. He was visiting. These three knew the country well–all three are world travelers.

    Iraq is sizable (roughly the size of California–and is the 58th largest country in the world). Believe it or not, not all of it is at war. Northern Iraq, also known as Kurdistan is actually part of Iraq in name only. In that part of the world Kurdistan is a known tourist destination (in fact, the area is actually booming and is actually a fairly wealthy region). The area is peaceful, democratic, and well-policed (Defined as "secure" by the US government). Tourists travel there by the thousands. There are hotels there and resorts.

    They were not the only hikers in the area that day and it has been reported that other hikers saw the guards who arrested them and have stated that those guards tried to wave the three over and, when they refused, crossed the border and arrested them. Since the hikers were arrested, these guards themselves have been sent to prison for smuggling, kidnapping, and murder. Chances are very good these guards spotted these three, recognized them as Americans, and figured they'd get a big reward for bringing three "spies" in.

    It would really help if CNN would cover this entire story as well educate their readers as to the geography of this part of the world, but maybe, in lieu of this, we should do a little self-educating ourselves.

    September 21, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Archie Bunker

    Ok now its time to drop bombs on iran!

    September 21, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Edwin Josue

    May it be a good lesson for you guys and for everybody not to do hiking adventure in places where there is high risk.

    September 21, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Mark

    Glad they're coming home, but doesn't anyone think these guys are idiots? Here in the educated world, we know that countries in the middle east are not so free or fair. How does hiking into one of these countries and causing a debacle for our entire country sound like a good idea? Plus the expenses we are paying to a country that doesn't particularly like us...

    For all of this, you guys are idiots. Think before you act because big brother might not always be so willing to help you out and I think we have better things to spend our money on.

    September 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Zaina

    I am so happy to hear they are freed. I have been praying for them all since I heard what happened over 2 years ago. Insha'Allah they will be able to make up for the time they were stuck in Iran. I still cannot believe that they had to pay 1 million to get them out, but am glad they are free!

    September 21, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Captain Art

    I don't feel sorry for stupid people,they should have kept all of you for 20 years because your all dumb and just looking for trouble!

    September 21, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Anomic Office Drone

    I am very glad to hear they are coming home. Hopefully, there won't be any more "lost hikers" for us to bail out of Iran. I'd like to think that we, as a people, have more sense than that.

    September 21, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jason

    Kudos to the international effort. I once got stuck in a mexican prison and the US Consulate helped find me a lawyer and that was about it. I'm glad that in more extreme cases, the US is able to pull together and resolve such an issue.

    Sure, the Berkeley grads had NO business being where they were – but it's uncertain just where the Iranians picked them up.

    September 21, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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