Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he will pardon and release the two American hikers and former UC Berkeley students detained for allegedly crossing the Iranian border more than two years ago, according to major media outlets.
Ahmadinejad’s statement comes just over three weeks after Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were convicted of spying charges, and sentenced to eight years in prison. The conviction was widely condemned by world leaders as unnecessarily harsh.
Bauer, Fattal and Sarah Shourd — Bauer’s fiance — were arrested by Iranian officials in 2009 on charges of espionage when they allegedly crossed the Iranian border. Shourd was later released on bail.
Ahmadinejad made the statements regarding the hikers’ pardon in an interview with the Washington Post. Ahmadinejad is quoted as saying, “I am helping to arrange for their release in a couple of days so they will be able to return home.”
The timing of the Iranian president’s statement has caused speculation as to the motives behind the release. Ahmadinejad is set to visit the United Nations General Assembly and the release could be a way for him to curry goodwill before the meeting.
Photos: Top, Josh Fattal, bottom, Shane Bauer