US hikers freed in Iran on eve of Ahmadinejad’s UN speech

TEHRAN – Two American hikers imprisoned as spies in Iran for more than two years were released on bail Wednesday, Iranian and U.S. officials said, according to CNN. The news of their release comes a day before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is due to speak at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 29, were convicted last month of entering Iran illegally and spying for the United States, and each sentenced to eight years in prison. They have not yet been seen leaving Evin Prison, but their attorney, Masoud Shafiee, went into the facility earlier in the day with paperwork to show that the USD 500,000 bail had been paid for each of them. 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 almost exactly a year ago on medical grounds.

High-profile American Muslims including boxing legend Muhammad Ali have called for their release, and a high-profile delegation and Christian and Muslim American religious leaders met Ahmadinejad in Iran last week to plead for their freedom. Ahmadinejad said before the meeting that the release of Fattal and Bauer was imminent, setting off a week-long roller coaster ride of expectations.

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