Iran Releases American Hikers

More than two years after they were convicted as spies by Iranian courts, the American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer have been released by Iran.

The pair arrived in the Gulf State of Oman yesterday aboard a private jet, and were immediately reunited on Oman’s royal airfield with waiting family members.

The release of Fattal and Bauer comes after months of diplomatic maneuvers between Washington and Tehran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called their release a humanitarian gesture, while President Obama said it was “wonderful news.”

The two hikers were freed on a $1 million bail, and were full of relief at Oman’s airport. As Shane Bauer said to assembled reporters:

“Two years is too long in a prison. We sincerely hope for the freedom of other political prisoners and other unjustly imprisoned people in America and in Iran.”

Fattal and Bauer were arrested along the Iran-Iraq border in 2009. While the U.S. always maintained they were innocent hikers, the 29-year-olds were convicted as spies by Iran and sentenced to eight years in prison each.

Amongst those waiting for the pair in Oman was Sarah Shourd, who was arrested with Fattal and Bauer but freed a year ago on a $500,000 bail. Bauer had proposed marriage to Shourd while in prison. A statement from the men’s families said:

“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.”

Although there are plainly graver political and military beefs between the U.S. and Iran – Iran’s nuclear program chief amongst them – the release of the two Americans should help Tehran court some goodwill.