Iran Frees 2 American Hikers
Two years after crossing an unmarked border into Iran, American hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal are being released from prison on $1 million bail. Convicted of espionage by the Iranians, they had been sentenced to eight years behind bars. Update: The two Americans flew Wednesday to Oman, where they raced down the stairway of a private jet and into the arms of their families.
Officials from Iraq and Oman are reported to have negotiated their freedom, with Oman paying bail for the pair. A week earlier, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had told U.S. media that the two had been granted a “unilateral pardon.” However, observers suspect that the long delay in the hikers’ release was the result of a power struggle between Ahmadinejad and conservatives close to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with the hikers becoming a means to put pressure on the U.S. and its allies. Ahmadinejad’s presidency will end in 2013. –ARK
It is not clear why Iran has finally decided to release the two, but analysts have interpreted the move as an attempt to reduce tensions with the international community at a time when negotiations over its nuclear programme are deadlocked.