How Far Does Sean Penn's Star Power Reach? American Hikers Freed Thanks to Hollywood Influence

Celebrities can do a lot to bring an issue into political discourse. Many people credit Jon Stewart for helping 9/11 responders to get medical attention. Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder kept the West Memphis Three in the public spotlight until they were finally freed. And Lady Gaga is currently pressing President Obama to pass legislation against bullying. But it isn't often that a celebrity has a direct influence on an international issue. But apparently, Sean Penn is at least partly responsible for freeing two American hikers from an Iranian prison.

The Inquisitr reported earlier this week:

"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 two hikers were flown from Iran to Oman where they were greeted by their families.

Fatal said:

"We're so happy we are free and so relieved we are free. Our deepest gratitude goes toward His Majesty Sultan Qaboos of Oman for obtaining our release. We're sincerely grateful for the government of Oman for hosting us and our families."
Apparently Sultan Qaboos had a little push from Hollywood actor Sean Penn.

Reuters reports that Sean Penn flew to Venezuela to talk to President Hugo Chavez. CNN reports that Chavez was part of the mediation process that resulted in the release of Fatal and Bauer, and reportedly voiced his support of the hikers when he talked to his Iranian ally, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A source close to Penn said:

"Penn was very committed to the case ... He flew to Caracas several months ago to raise it with Chavez and he kept on it."
Penn's spokesman confirmed this, but no other details were given.

Do you think Sean Penn was influential in freeing the hikers?