U.S. men convicted in Iran as spies head home

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 24, 2011 4:08 PM
U.S. men convicted in Iran as spies head home

MUSCAT (Reuters) - Two U.S. citizens sentenced in Iran to eight years in jail for spying left for the United States on Saturday from Oman, where they had landed after being released by Iranian authorities.

Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, who were arrested while hiking along the Iraq-Iran border in 2009 and denied being spies, flew to Oman two days ago, after officials there helped secure their release by posting bail of $1 million.

"I can't express our joy enough of being here in Oman after the experience we have been through. The joy will stay with us forever," Bauer told reporters at Muscat airport, before he and Fattal left Oman for the United States.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad agreed to their release last week, saying it was a humanitarian gesture before his annual trip to the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Both were arrested in July 2009 near Iran's border with Iraq along with another American, Sarah Shourd. The trio, in their late 20s and early 30s, said they were hiking.

Shourd was released on $500,000 bail a year ago and allowed to fly home, but the two men were sentenced to eight years in prison last month after a trial held behind closed doors.

"Our gratitude to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos of Oman for his efforts that led to our release," Fattal said. "We would like to come back to Oman someday in happier circumstances."

(Reporting by Saleh al-Shaibany; Writing by Reed Stevenson; Editing by Sophie Hares)