Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has confirmed to NBC that two American hikers detained in the country for spying will be released in two days.
In what Ahmadinejad referred to as a “humanitarian gesture,” the two men- who have been detained since July 2009- will be freed, the president disclosed when talking to Ann Curry. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were taken into custody more than two years ago along with fellow American Sarah Shourd after the three, hiking in Iraq, inadvertently wandered into Iranian territory. Shourd was freed in September of 2010 after $500,000 bail was posted for her.
Ahmadinejad explained why Iran had chosen to detain the American men for so long:
“They illegally crossed our borders,” Ahmadinejad told Curry. “And they were arrested by the border guards. And all countries have laws for illegal border-crossing. They have very tough laws. We have the same laws here in the country.”
A few weeks ago, defense lawyer for the men Masoud Shafiei said he’d hoped the eight-year long sentences received by Bauer and Fattal would be set aside in favor of bail, although in Iran, espionage is punishable by death:
“I hope because of the holy month of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr they might enjoy Islamic clemency.”
Ahmadinejad also pointed to the fact that while two Americans had been jailed by Iran, countless Iranians languished in American prisons:
“You know how many Iranians are in the American jails? They are human beings. It’s not about only two people in Iran… These two people are having the very good condition here in prison. It’s like staying in a hotel. I think the problem is in our … in the approach of the American politicians and leaders.”
The leader had some pointed criticism for President Obama as well- when pressed by Curry about his country, he countered with asking what had changed in America since the Commander-in-Chief took office.