Guest Author - Debora Dyess
Two American hikers were released from an Iranian prison, where they had spent 781 days. The hikers, accused of spying, had accidentally crossed over the border from Iraq. They were released from what they described as “a world of lies and false hope.”
The pair was part of a trio of hikers arrested in July of 2009. Hiking in Kurdistan in northern Iraq, Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd crossed an almost unmarked border between Iraq and Iran. There were immediately captured and detained on charges of spying. The three are still unsure if they actually crossed the border. “”We regret we didn’t know more about the area,” Shourd said in an interview conducted after her friends were released.
"We want to be clear: They do not deserve undue credit for ending what they had no right and no justification to start in the first place," Scott Fattal said of the Iranian government.
Shourd was released after 410 days in prison and the payment of a $500,000 bond. American officials insisted it was not paid by the US. She was released after concerns were raised about her health after 14 months of imprisonment. Her release was bittersweet: she left her close friend, Scott Fattal and fiancée’ Shane Bauer, behind. She and Bauer, who were dating before the ill-fated hiking trip, became engaged in prison.
Fattal and Bauer report hearing the screams of other tortured prisoners and describe the mind-games of guards. They were held in solitary confinement for most of their years behind bars, with only 15 minutes of total phone calling time allowed.
They claimed their imprisonment was due to poor US-Iranian relations.
The two men were charged with and tried for espionage. They received an eight-year prison term earlier in 2011, but their sudden release occurred on September 21 of the same year. A bail of $500,000 each was reportedly paid by Oman, a Persian Gulf state and ally of the United States.
The two men went for their regular exercise routine on Wednesday morning but instead of being blindfolded and returned to their 8x13 foot cell, they were taken to another part of the prison. Fingerprinted and given street clothes, they were then taken to a room where an official from Oman was waiting. “Let’s go home,” he told the two Americans.
Their long awaited return to US soil happened on September 25, 2011 when the jet they were aboard landed at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City.