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

The Guardian:

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.

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