TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s president predicted Tuesday that two Americans arrested while hiking along the Iraq-Iran border and sentenced to eight years in jail on espionage-related charges could be freed “in a couple of days” after a court set bail of $500,000 each.

The events appeared timed to boost the image of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad coinciding with his visit to New York next week for the U.N. General Assembly session. Last year, a third American was released on bail around the same time.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States was “encouraged” by Ahmadinejad’s comments about freeing Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal.

“We obviously hope that we will see a positive outcome from what appears to be a decision by the government,” Clinton said at the State Department.

The families of Bauer and Fattal said in a statement that they are “overjoyed” by the reports from Iran.

Lawyer Masoud Shafiei said the court would begin the process to free Bauer and Fattal after payment of the bail, which must be arranged through third parties because of U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. The timing of the court’s decision is similar to last year’s bail deal mediated by the Gulf state of Oman that freed a third American, Sarah Shourd.

“They accepted to set bail to release,” Shafiei told The Associated Press after leaving court. “The amount is the same for Sarah.”

Ahmadinejad, in an interview aired on NBC’s “Today” show, predicted the Americans could be freed “in a couple of days.” He described the bail offer as a “humanitarian gesture” and repeated complaints about attention for Iranians held in U.S. prisons.

The Americans were arrested in July 2009 along the border and accused by Iran of espionage. The trio have denied the charges and say they may have mistakenly crossed into Iran when they stepped off a dirt road while hiking near a waterfall in the semiautonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Last month, Bauer and Fattal, both 29, were sentenced to three years each for illegal entry into Iran and five years each for spying for the United States. They appealed the verdicts. Shourd’s case remains open.

Shafiei said he has passed along details of the court’s decision to the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Iran because there are no diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said officials were in touch with Swiss envoys “to get more details from the Iranian authorities.”

Iran appears to have timed the court decision to coincide with Ahmadinejad’s U.N. visit. Last year, Shourd was released on bail just as Ahmadinejad was heading for the annual gathering of world leaders.

But Ahmadinejad was not likely involved closely in any decisions on the case. Iran’s judiciary is controlled by the country’s ruling clerics, who have been waging relentless pressure on Ahmadinejad and his allies as part of an internal power struggle.

The diplomatic pathways for possible bail payments was not immediately clear. Officials in Oman — which has close ties with the U.S. and Iran — did not immediately respond for comment on whether they could again offer assistance.

The prime minister of Pakistan, which handles Iran’s diplomatic interests in the U.S., has been in Iran since Sunday. But there has been no indication that Yousef Raza Gilani is playing any role in the case.

The possible release of the two Americans would remove one point of tension between Iran and the United States, but suspicions still exist on both sides and no thaw is in sight.

Washington and European allies worry Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as cover to develop atomic weapons and have urged for even stronger sanctions to pressure Tehran. Iran denies any efforts to make nuclear weapons.

Iran, meanwhile, is deeply concerned about the U.S. military on its borders in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sharply denounces U.S. influence in the Middle East.

The families of Bauer and Fattal said in their statement that the pair’s freedom “means more to us than anything and it’s a huge relief to read that they are going to be released.”

“While we do not have further details at this time, we are overjoyed by the positive news reports from Iran,” the statement said.

“We’re grateful to everyone who has supported us and looking forward to our reunion with Shane and Josh,” it added. “We hope to say more when they are finally back in our arms.”

Shourd is living in Oakland, California; Bauer, a freelance journalist, grew up in Onamia, Minnesota; and Fattal, an environmental activist, is from suburban Philadelphia. Bauer proposed marriage to Shroud while in prison.

The last direct contact family members had with Bauer and Fattal was in May 2010 when their mothers were permitted a short visit in Tehran.

Their case closely parallels that of freelance journalist Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American who convicted of spying before being released in May 2009. Saberi was sentenced to eight years in prison, but an appeals court reduced that to a two-year suspended sentence and let her return to the U.S.

At the time, a spokesman for the Iranian judiciary said the court ordered the reduction as a gesture of “Islamic mercy” because Saberi had cooperated with authorities and expressed regret.

In May 2009, a French academic, Clotilde Reiss, also was freed after her 10-year sentence on espionage-related charges was commuted.

Last year, Iran freed an Iranian-American businessman, Reza Taghavi, who was held for 29 months for alleged links to a bombing in the southern city of Shiraz, which killed 14 people. Taghavi denied any role in the attack.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (56)
  1. Sue J says:

    Please keep them!

    1. Tom says:

      @ Sue J

      Did you say the samething when those two Christian woman were detained many years ago when they were trying to go door to door trying to get people to convert from Islam to christianity? I doubt it!

      1. Bill says:

        They were actually doing something useful

        1. Dave's Not Here says:

          Convincing a weak minded fool into becoming a christian is not “doing something useful.”

          1. Bill says:

            As long as you are convinced of that

            1. Dave's Not Here says:

              Entirely, and without exception. There is nothing to be gained by thinking you have a life safety net that you can’t see or use.

              1. Bill says:

                Well I’m happy for you then, feel sorry for your soul but I’m happy you have everything figured out

                1. Aldous says:

                  Happy for him then or happy for him now? How old is the earth then Mr Bill? How old is it now?

                2. Dave's Not Here says:

                  I feel sorry for your astunstor. It will suffer from beatings after your passing from this world. So it is written in the book of Gerald, and we all know that if you don’t read and follow the book of Gerald that your astunstor will suffer mightily in a lake of hot oil forever. Boogedy Woogedy.

            2. Tom says:

              @ Bill

              So if a muslim woman would knock on your door and tried to get you convert from christianity to Islam would you call that useful? I doubt it!

        2. markH says:

          Useful? Encouraging the credulous to change from one mind control belief system to another? No. Useful is actually doing something that helps people; feeding them, clothing them, providing better water systems, housing, medical assistance, etc. Prostelytizing to the superstitious and ignorant is not help. Peace.

    2. jan says:

      How can you be so mean? You should be in Iran in prison instead

  2. Super Dude says:

    How about Iran pays us $500,000 each to take them back?

  3. Joe says:

    That turned out to be an expensive hiking trip. Next time just go to Wisconsin.

    1. Blah Blah says:

      Expesive for the american tax payer.

      1. Blah Blah says:

        Make that expensive.

  4. Kevin says:

    With all of the hatred these arrogant elitists have created here they will likely be murdered within weeks. I used to respect Iran for sticking to their guns. Not any more. A million for these two losers (OK well 3 losers)…?

  5. keep 'em there says:

    And who, may I ask, is coming up with a million dollars to free these two morons?

  6. oNiSaC says:

    We’ve disided the young men should stay in Iran until they grow up, and think about life in sharia land as being almost free. They can work here for 10 years each and be monitured with an ankle band 24 hours per day. One young man will then work sweeping and cleaning the streets each day. The other could work helping our pipeline security like a guard with a hand held radio each day. The young men could switch jobs if they’d like every 2 weeks. If the youngmen work hard and obey our laws at the end of 7 years we could swich jobs for them again.
    The boys would either go to a better ficility or a worse ficility depending on how there work record and record obeying our law goes, just as we do here in Iran.
    We’re hoping the young men will want to stay and become a Muslim. The security bands would of course stay on the ankle for as long as they stay in Iran. Our county might want to use the boys as military border patrol security. To help our soldiors that can not speak english.

    Its possibly you know…..

  7. Rick Ferry says:

    Its being reported that the three “hikers” are planning a celebratory excursion on the North Korean border lands upon their release. After all they have been through they deserve the much needed getaway.

    1. Stupid Parents says:

      The condition of there release should be the liar Sarah and all the parents go back and serve 10 years

  8. Bob says:

    There aren’t enough hiking trails in Utah or Montana? You have to go hiking near the Iranian border? This reminds me of the morons who attempt to climb mountains in the winter, then get in trouble, then search and rescue has to risk their lives and maybe give up their lives trying to save them. The National Guard gets called out, helicopters crash, all because some dopes wanted to prove their man and woman hood. This whole thing is a farce from the get go.

  9. quentin says:

    Where’s the compassion? Hope you never are in a situation where you start hiking in a country engaged in a lengthy civil war and mistakenly venture into a country with an Islamic dictatorship.

    1. Tom says:

      @ quentin

      To bad it couldn’t happen to the Religious Right! That way they would have to deal with their radicals and our radicals at the sametime.

      1. Cindy says:

        Tom you’re trying so hard to to say something relevant and its just not working.

        1. Tom says:

          @ Cindy

          You obviously can’t tell the difference between someone being serios and someone trying to use a little humor. And 100% of time conservatives can’t tell the difference.

  10. Johnny Rain Cloud says:

    Our tax dollars will be going towards the release of 3 people who simply couldn’t follow rules of a different country! This is outrageous! Once they return to the U.S. they will get millions to make appearances on TV, most likely will get a book deal and possibly a movie! Nice, we bail them out and then they make money!

    1. Tom says:

      @ Johnny Rain CLoud

      Who wouldn’t do that for the money? Regardles of how their situation happened!

    2. ME says:

      If that is the case I hope they have to pay us back!! I kind of wish some bookie bailed them out then he could charge them juice on the loan, and make them pay it back. It would beat an Iranian prison anyways.

  11. Carrie says:

    I cannot believe the hateful coments that are here! Anyone who does not have compassion for these two young men, who were just out for a hike are what is truly wrong with this country! I am hoping WCCO could let me know of a fund I can contribute to so we can get these guys home. They have been pawns in a political game Iran is playing and did nothing wrong!

    1. MAJ says:

      I sure hope my tax $$$$$ don’t go to get these morons out. Lots of places in this country to hike. One of them is from Onamia, MN
      A hike in Northern MN would have got them in no trouble. I’ll be glad when this story goes away.

      1. markH says:

        Re-read your post and pay particular attention to your grammar. Further, when using the word “moron”, be mindful that you don’t meet your own definition. Peace.

    2. markH says:

      I agree with you Carrie. I am surprised at the ignorance (likely most of them claim to be Christians, yet have a sadistic compulsion to see others suffer) of many of these posters. These two guys did something foolish and exercised poor judgement-who hasn’t? But to think that they deserve to languish in a foreign prison for the “crime” of wandering over a boarder is just sadism. Peace.

      1. Shelly says:

        Would that be a snow boarder, skate boarder, or a boarder in a boarding facility? 🙂

  12. MAXINE says:


  13. joe says:

    That sucks, now these morons will be living back here.

  14. 2BZ says:

    Again, why do we call them ” THE HIKERS”?Only is the U.S. press calls then that . In other coutries they are call Spys who messed up and go caught.

    1. Bill says:

      Hikers, Spys, Snotty little spoiled liberals that got taught a lesson …. its all the same

  15. Dave's Not Here says:

    Bail is a price set for release prior to returning for a trial.

    These men were already convicted and sentenced to 8 years in prison.

    This is not bail. This is nothing more than extortion and a cheap money grab.

    1. bsqd1977 says:

      D.N.H. is correct. Bail is to insure you return for trial. But that is here. Who knows what it means there. These two better promise to who ever puts up the bail they will never get within 1000 miles of a situation like this again! They are on their own next time.

  16. MAXINE says:


    1. markH says:

      That’s the exact same question I pose to every Christian I meet; I get the “deer in the headlights” look.

  17. markH says:

    “At the time, a spokesman for the Iranian judiciary said the court ordered the reduction as a gesture of “Islamic mercy” because Saberi had cooperated with authorities and expressed regret.”

    If this is true, then the corollary must also follow; the arrest and subsequent detention was an example of Islamic sadism and subjugation. I don’t think the Iranian judiciary spokesman thought this one through. Peace.

  18. Gloria says:

    I left a comment about 10 minutes ago; where is it?


    1. markH says:

      Have you checked your pockets?

  19. yes sir says:

    Does anyone actually believe they weren’t spies for our government? This was the easiest, legal way to get them back and not have to answer questions about why we are paying countries like Iran to release spies. If the general public thinks we are paying bail for some hikers it looks better.

  20. Gloria says:

    As I wrote in a previous comment that wasn’t posted, Sarah S. and her then boyfriend, now fiance’, were living and working somewhere in or near Iraq for a few years prior to their arrests. (I believe she taught or they were involved in some compassionate program.) If I remember right, their other friend came to visit, or he also had been living there. They didn’t just choose to go to Iraq/Iran for a nice vacation/hike.

    Although I would never choose to do what they did, and hopefully, they will never go near the Middle East again if they’re released, I cannot believe the insensitive, callous remarks and assumptions by some of the posters here. I also feel very badly for the families of these 3 individuals.

    1. Hope you sleep well says:

      Get over it. Sarah lied to get the release. The other two are just plain stupid. They soould all serve time.

  21. concerned citizen says:

    I agree with you Gloria- These 3 were already working over there you sensitive people!

    1. Gloria says:

      Thank you, Concerned Citizen; let’s hope these young men are home safe & sound soon!

  22. Greg says:

    These two brats can have their parents pay the ransom. The tax payer should not pay for fools.

  23. Dave's Not Here says:

    Ahmadinejad doesn’t have the authority to grant the release even if the million bucks ends up being sent.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Watch & Listen LIVE