Reporting Aristea Brady
SHAKOPEE, Minn. (WCCO) — Three Americans once jailed in Iran say they’re feeling thankful and relieved.
Minnesota native, Shane Bauer and his friend Josh Fattal, ran into the arms of their families after being freed from an Iranian prison in August. Bauer’s fiancée, Sarah Shourd, was also arrested with the men, but was freed last year.
All three have denied the spy charges and said they got lost hiking in Iraq.
The three stopped in Minnesota this weekend thanking people for support during their 780 days behind bars.
Shane Bauer’s father, Allan, decided to host what he called the “Free the Hikers” Open House at a Town Hall in Shakopee as his way to say thank you to everyone in the community who helped.
The event was open to anybody and the family was pleasantly surprised to see there was even more people supporting their cause than they even knew.
“This is a day we were all waiting for,” said family friend Glady Busch.
They are the people who supported the Bauer family since July 31,2009 when the three were first detained.
“We can relax. It’s all done,” said Allan Bauer. “They helped us emotionally, financially, just to stop and say ‘Hi,’ and give ya a hug … It’s like it’s neat, it’s priceless.”
At the event were close friends, extended family and even strangers to the hikers.
“This is the first time I’ve met ‘em in person,” said Brooklyn Park resident Mary Waste. “I just felt like I had to be here.”
Waste has been following the story since it broke. She is one of the 31,000 friends of “Free the Hikers,” a support network on Facebook.
“People said if you give $36, everyone on ‘Free the Hikers,’ we would have the $500,000 bail. That’s how many people were on there,” Waste said.
She told WCCO-TV she gladly have her contribution in hopes of one day seeing the hikers back on American soil.
As for those closest to the hikers, life is slowly getting back to normal.
“I think everybody’s got the same smile on. We’re all happy and, you know, now life is good,” Allan Bauer said.
Following their release, the hikers thanked the Sultan of Oman for helping pay their bail.
Bauer’s family said since Shane and Joshua were released, they’ve been spending most of their time with family. They also said that each day the hikers seem to be more positive and back to their old selves.
Shane’s father said his son and Sarah are planning to get married next spring. They say it’s helping the whole family to continue with looking forward.