Omani and Iraqi officials have entered negotiations for the release of two UC Berkeley alumni detained in Iran after allegedly crossing the border while hiking more than two years ago.
Iraq sent a delegation of of lawmakers to the Iranian capital to join the diplomatic talks on the release of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, two UC Berkeley alumni who were hiking on the Iran-Iraq border in 2009 when they unknowingly crossed into Iran.
Last month, Bauer and Fattal, after more than two years of detention in Iranian prison, were convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison. The two men each received five years imprisonment for espionage and three additional years for allegedly entering the country illegally. The conviction was widely condemned by world leaders as unnecessarily harsh.
A senior Iraqi government said Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani both support “efforts to help release American hikers on humanitarian grounds,” the Associated Press reported Thursday.
Their involvement comes on the heels of mixed messages from Iranian officials on a decision to release the hikers. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the Washington Post Tuesday that the prisoners would be released in a matter of days. However, the next day Iran’s judiciary contradicted these statements, saying the Americans’ release is not imminent, the New York Times reported.
If negotiations come through and the hikers are released, a private plane provided by Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said is waiting to take the hikers out of the country.
Claire Perlman is the assistant university news editor.