Free at last

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The hikers: Josh Fattal, Sarah Shourd, and Shane Bauer.
courtesy Free the Hikers

An ordeal lasting more than two years for Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal came to an end in Iran today, when the two 29-year-old University of California Berkeley grads were freed at last from Tehran's Evin Prison.

CNN reports that Bauer and Fattal were transported from the Iranian prison to an international airport just before nightfall, accompanied by Swiss and Omani officials. They were bound for Muscat, the Omani capital, where arrangements had been made for them to meet with their families and Sarah Shourd, Bauer's fiancee, who was arrested along with them in July of 2009 while on a hiking trip in Iraqi Kurdistan. Shourd was released in what Iran characterized as a humanitarian gesture last year, after spending 410 days in solitary confinement.

"Today can only be described as the best day of our lives," a statement from the families said in response to the news that they had finally been released. "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."

Last month, Bauer and Fattal were convicted of spying and illegally entering the country and sentenced to eight years in prison each, despite a lack of evidence and repeated statements by President Barack Obama that they had never worked for the U.S. government.

Yet human rights activists advocating for their release have characterized the Iranian government's decision to continue holding them as a political tactic to begin with, and some observers didn't take the outcome of the trial at face value.

The fact that they stood trial after two years of being detained was interpreted as potentially a positive signal by some supporters advocating for their release.
News of their conviction and harsh eight-year sentences also brought kernels of hope, ironically, for some who speculated that the severe outcome of their trial might figure into a broader plan to grant their pardon, setting the Iranian government up for an opportuinity to take credit on the world stage for a merciful act just as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad headed to the United States for the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

However, unexpected delays and hints that the hikers were caught up amid an internal power struggle in Iran kept friends and supporters in a state of agonizing suspense over the past week. On Sept. 13, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated publicly that Bauer and Fattal could be freed "in a couple of days."
 
But that statement had come to nothing by Sept. 16, when supporters from the Bay Area gathered in San Francisco in hopes that an announcement would be made. The following day, reports surfaced that an Iranian lawyer trying to free them was waiting on the signature of a judge who was on vacation until Sept. 20 before their release could go forward.

Bauer and Fattal were released on $1 million bail, a sum CNN reported was paid by the Omani government.

Bauer, Fattal and Shourd are social-justice advocates, antiwar activists, writers, environmentalists, travelers, and creative thinkers with deep ties to the Bay Area. Shourd and Bauer had been living in Syria when they joined with Fattal, who was visiting, and embarked on the ill-fated hiking trip in Iraqi Kurdistan in July of 2009. Shourd, who lives in Oakland, was teaching English to Iraqi refugees when she was in Syria, as well as practicing some journalism. Fattal, who taught at Aprovecho — an education center in Oregon focused on sustainability and permaculture — had been traveling to India, South Africa, and other places through the International Honors Program to lead workshops on health and sustainable technology before visiting his friends in Syria.

Bauer wrote for publications such as The Nation, Mother Jones, and the Christian Science Monitor, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. A photojournalist who has won multiple awards and had his work published internationally, he's documented stories ranging from tenant conditions in San Francisco SROs to conflict-ridden regions in Africa and the Middle East.

Their imprisonment prompted an international response. Calls for their release were issued by Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, human rights activists, religious leaders, authors, celebrities, and hundreds of supporters who wrote letters, displayed banners, and raised money for efforts pushing for their release. A host of family members, friends, and supporters organized under an effort called Free the Hikers worked steadily to free them, and their long-anticipated reunion with Bauer and Fattal has finally arrived.

Comments

Interesting that this doesn't garner more attention here.

These hippies are the typical of Bay Area one worlders, they were ridiculously nabbed by a crack pot religious gang of authoritarians. These three points you would think would create a bevy of excitement and indignation here.

When Ms, Bowe commented on this in the past there was some "it's America's fault somehow" type postings. In a nation that hangs gays and stones women for lack of something better to do I would think there would be more interest here.

And yet no proclamations or pronouncements, or even a "glad they escaped those religious nut case kooks."

One wonders.

Posted by meatlock on Sep. 21, 2011 @ 3:45 pm
Posted by Guest on Sep. 21, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

Tell me about Fox news, on the Bay Guardian web page. har.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 21, 2011 @ 4:31 pm

One wonders what would happen if 3 Iranian students were hiking in the Canadian rockies and "accidentally" crossed over into the United States? Would we just take their story at face value, or would we suspect them of spying for "the enemy?" Would the hawks in Washington demand that they be detained and interrogated? And if some voices said they should be released, would the hawks and hate radio jocks call them "weak on terrorism?" One wonders.

One also wonders whether all is as it seems with the hikers. Suspicions that they are somehow linked to US government covert operations are routinely dismissed as crazy rantings. And yet, it's no secret that these operations happen, and US personell routinely cross the pourous borders to conduct convert ops in Iran.

You know... I like to hike too. But you know... somehow the idea of "hey dudes, let's go hiking on the Iran/Turkey border" never quite occurred to me. Don't know why, but for some reason that area is not exactly on the top of my hiking list. If their story is true, then these are exceptionally stupid hikers. Given the situation with the US, one can't really blame the Iranians for doubting their tale.

There are a lot of things we don't know for sure, so I wouldn't be so quick to make rash judgements. If they're truly innocent (if exceptionally stupid) hikers, then I'm glad they're free.

Now if the US government can get around to freeing the Cuban 5, people languishing in US prison for the crime of gathering information about violent anti-Cuban terrorist groups, that would be even better.

Posted by Greg on Sep. 21, 2011 @ 8:32 pm

Iranians hiking in Canada who wondered into the USA would be asked "how in the world did you ever get out of Iran into Canada? Are you trying to defect from that shit hole?" A park ranger would give them some donuts and send them on their way.

Other than military bases a person can go most anywhere in the USA, and when here they can just overstay their visa if they want to keep doing whatever nefarious scheme they came up with.

Why the US government would recruit these three hippies and what they thought they could get them to report on? What a crazy conspiracy.

The Cuban five, LOL, I almost forgot about them. The Cuban government admits they were spies. No one in jail is guilty of anything.

Rebbecca these are your fellow travelers on the left.

Posted by meatlock on Sep. 21, 2011 @ 9:21 pm

I'm not surprised that you'd automatically take the US government's position at face value.

Nevertheless, if you're not living in the world of knee-jerk jingoism, the story of crazy hippies just happening to be in the neighborhood of Iran and crossing the border does seem a bit far fetched. And note, I'm NOT saying that they're necessarily lying. They MAY be just exceptionally stupid but innocent hikers who just happen to have a particular affinity for hiking border areas in conflict zones. But unlike you, I don't claim to KNOW this for fact. I'm reserving judgement. And given the history of US belligerent posturing towards Iran, including covert operations (which even you probably wouldn't deny)... given that history, I don't blame the Iranians for being suspicious. We simply don't know.

I also seriously doubt that if things were reversed, the US government would give them donuts and send them on their merry way, rather than send them to Guantanamo. Up until these guys were released, there was actually speculation that Iran may have been holding out for a prisoner exchange of its own citizens in US jails. Until KPFA reported that, I actually had no idea there WERE Iranian citizens being held by the US government. The corporate media doesn't dwell on such details. I'm sure you'd say without knowing anything about their cases, that whatever they're being held for, they probably deserve it. By definition. 'Cause everyone knows that America doesn't hold political prisoners. That's something other countries do.

As for the Cuban Five, neither they nor the Cuban government admit that they were "spies." They weren't spying on the US government. They were gathering information on anti-Cuban terrorists with a violent agenda. That's not a crime, and the fact that they're in jail is pure politics.

I just think that you have an overly benign (and naive) view of this country's government, particularly as it relates to foreign policy.

Posted by Greg on Sep. 21, 2011 @ 10:12 pm

You are claiming that I will believe what the government says? Wow.

Greg I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I'm a bit better informed than you on the subject of who would spy for the USA, owning and having read a couple of hundred books on the subject. I'll state as a fact, the security services of the USA would never pick these three to spy for them for anything.

Part of spying requires a certain kind patriotism, that would not include these three hippies. There would be a requirement to be able to gain useful information, what could these thee possibly find out? And that whole thing of them being Jews? Good lord, you will believe absolutely anything.

KPFA, seriously? You called people convicted of drug crimes political prisoners a few weeks ago. Making real political prisoners around the world insulted.

Iran isn't the USSR where we exchange actual spies for spies, in this case we would be exchanging stoners for arms traders and people who probably defected away from Iran.

The Iranians probably figured they could pull off what happened in the 80's. The various terrorist groups in Lebanon would kidnap a few Americans and want to exchange them, then Reagan who wasn't going to deal with terrorists made deals, then the terrorists would go abduct more people.

The Cuban five, this seems to sum up well enough, admitted spies. Not just spying on fellow Cubans either. The South Florida right wing Cubans also end up in jail for their idiotic antics.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/01/28/2038565/convicted-cuban-spies-got-...

Why is it considered informed to be indoctrinated in KPFA idiocy?

Posted by meatlock on Sep. 22, 2011 @ 4:56 am

You should read a book that explains the difference.
Maybe it will have purty pictures.

"I'll state as a fact"
meatlock on Sep. 22, 2011 @ 4:56 am

Posted by Guest on Sep. 22, 2011 @ 7:38 am

What KPFA reported was true. Do we hold Iranian citizens in US prisons? Yes we do. Does the corporate media report this? Not that I've seen. You might try tuning in sometime. Maybe you'll be more informed.

A whole lot better than getting your information from opinion pieces in the rabidly anti-Cuban Miami Herald.

Why is it considered informed to be indoctrinated in Miami Herald idiocy?

Meanwhile... I heard Shane Bauer's statement on KPFA today. First thing he did was connect his own plight to the plight of political prisoners in the United States and around the world. He specifically called out the United States.

Who knows... the guy may well be exactly what he says he is... an innocent hiker who thinks border areas of conflict zones are great places to spend your vacation. Like I said, I don't know. But I stand by my original point that GAWD this was an exceptionally stupid thing to do!

Aside from the question of whether or not these guys are who they appear to be in reality, there is the entirely SEPARATE question of what it looks like from the standpoint of the Iranians. Here's where I'd be thinking from if I were in their shoes... let's see, here's a country (the US) who keeps talking about overthrowing our government (regime change), routinely has their operatives cross our border to conduct covert ops, and now we have 3 military-age individuals caught crossing the border from American-occupied Iraq (a place where few if any legitimate tourists ever go). No, I can't say I blame them for being a tad suspicious, even if their suspicions are ultimately proven to be unfounded. And after all, the three were ultimately set free on bail.

Personally, I wouldn't go over to US-occupied territory on vacation to begin with. As a progressive, I find it a bit distasteful to use my privilege as an American citizen to vacation under the protection of the military that's occupying the country I'm vacationing in. If these folks are the progressives they claim to be, I'm a bit surprised they don't feel the same way.

Bauer is right, however, on the subject of US political prisoners. The Cuban Five have languished in jail for a decade, and just yesterday we executed an innocent man. The US likes to hold itself up as a beacon of democracy and human rights. But in reality, the US is a country that holds political prisoners and executes the innocent. It has little moral authority to dictate human rights policy to others.

Posted by Greg on Sep. 22, 2011 @ 12:58 pm

of the middle class American left.

Yeah we agree that it was dumb for American leftists to invite the idiocy of the Iranian theocrats, but your arguments of "so what, I hate America too" is ridiculous, and irrational.

Listening to KPFA does not make you informed it just makes you differently indoctrinated from a born again Christian right winger.

The Cuban five are not political prisoners, just as your drug dealer is not a political prisoner.

The real world sucks eh?

Posted by meatlock on Sep. 23, 2011 @ 2:36 am

"Another common tactic is the 'a plague on both your houses" approach, where the concern troll tries to convince people that both sides of the ideological divide are doing the same thing, or are just as bad as each other, knowing the site's reason for existing in the first place is to promote one side of the ideological divide. This preys on the sites' willingness to actually debate critics and allow dissenting commentary, since there normally isn't any more to these accusations than the endless repetition of the assertion."

Posted by Guest on Sep. 23, 2011 @ 6:32 am

While you whine away.

Posted by meatlock on Sep. 23, 2011 @ 11:08 am

Who the fuck goes on vacation to war zone? Call me all the names you want, but I didn't spend the last 2 years in an Iranian jail

Posted by Guest on Sep. 21, 2011 @ 9:51 pm

There crime is being out of touch bonged out hippies, jewish spies in Iran.

The Iranian government is run by idiots.

It's comical that people in the USA give these murderous religious nut cases any credibility.

Posted by meatlock on Sep. 22, 2011 @ 4:58 am

They were on vacation in KURDISTAN - which is not a "war zone" by any stretch of the imagination. They were in an area popular because it features streams and waterfalls and they were tricked into crossing the border, which was unmarked, by an Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

I have a feeling you rarely leave your house much less vacation to a place which is actually quite beautiful and peaceful and because of its proximity to a REAL war zone is usually overlooked by the hordes of grubby Western backpackers who infest every other place in Europe and Asia.

Posted by Right on Sister Snapples on Sep. 25, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

Oh, btw... I said Turkey when I meant to say IRAQ! That makes them look even smarter!

Oh yes, the border between Iran and US-occupied Iraq... that's REAL high on my list of places to go on vacation!

Posted by Greg on Sep. 21, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

They complain that they could here their Iranian captors torturing their fellow prisoners, probably actual real political prisoners in Iran, not Greg's drug dealer political prisoners.

And the first thing they do is complain that they were upset that they were detained because of America's position on Iran.

The irony of it all, he said, "is that Sarah, Josh and I oppose U.S. policies towards Iran which perpetuate this hostility."

Amazing.

Glad they are back and out of the hands of those crazy Iranian gay lynching, woman stoning, political based torturing religious asshole, now go away hippies and take a bath.

Posted by Matlock on Sep. 25, 2011 @ 5:32 pm

You're an unimaginative turd.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 25, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

You would think they were paid to say that too.

Tin foil hat progressives are so entertaining.

Posted by meatlock on Sep. 26, 2011 @ 12:06 am

I'm hunting pwogwessives!

Posted by Guest on Sep. 26, 2011 @ 7:04 am