Breaking free - Page 5

How a small group of Bay Area activists helped free their friends from Iranian prison — a Guardian exclusive

Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Alex Fattal at the Venezuelan consulate in New York


When the day of their release finally came, Golinger watched in Caracas as television broadcasts showed Bauer and Fattal bounding down the steps of the plane and leaping into the arms of their loved ones. She sent a text to Maduro, the Venezuelan foreign minister, who was in New York for the UN General Assembly. "I asked ... were we involved?" Minutes later, she received a text in response. "He said, fundamentally, yes." The Iranian foreign minister had told him that the release went through because of Chavez's request.

Days later, in New York, the hikers visited the Venezuelan consulate. And on the same trip, their first time back on U.S. soil, Bauer and Fattal held a press conference.

"The only explanation for our prolonged detention is the 32 years of mutual hostility between America and Iran," Bauer said. "The irony is that Sarah, Josh, and I oppose U.S. policies towards Iran which perpetuate this hostility. We were convicted of espionage because we are American. It is that simple."

He went on: "In prison, every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would immediately remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay. They would remind us of CIA prisons in other parts of the world, and the conditions that Iranians and others experience in prisons in the U.S. We do not believe that such human rights violations on the part of our government justify what has been done to us, not for a moment. However, we do believe that these actions on the part of the U.S provide an excuse for other governments, including the governments of Iran, to act in kind."

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