The past week has been a turbulent one for two UC Berkeley alumni, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, who are still detained in Iran, despite a belief early last week that they might be freed.
Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the Washington Post that the hikers would be granted a “unilateral pardon,” but the next day Iran’s judiciary released a statement that the President did not have the authority to release the prisoners and that the bail offer for the hikers was still “under review,” according to major media outlets.
While Iranian officials have released no official statement, the hikers may be released Tuesday on $1 million bail if a judge who is on vacation until then signs the bail documents. The other judge’s approval for their release was given Saturday.
In the last week international pressure has mounted. Iraq and Oman both sent negotiators to Iran to work with the Iranian government to release the prisoners. The day the judiciary council announced that the hikers could not be released, an Omani private aircraft belonging to the country’s sultan was flown to Tehran, where it remains waiting to take the hikers out of the country.
An American religious envoy — not an official representation of the United States — also traveled to the country last week, hoping to see the hikers freed. While the delegation was able to hold talks with Ahmadinejad, they were unable to have a meeting with the prisoners before returning home to America.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said she was “encouraged” by Ahmadinejad’s talk of their release and wanted to see a “positive outcome,” according to major media outlets.
The arrest and detention of the hikers has further strained relations between Iran and the United States. Since the American embassy was attacked in the 1979 revolution, the US has had no diplomatic presence in Iran and has been represented by Switzerland.
According to the Washington Post, the move to hold the hikers is seen by many as a reflection of a bitter feud between Ahmadinejad and other conservative leaders, including the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, over control of the country. The conservatives could be deciding to hold the hikers longer to publicly embarrass Ahmadinejad after he had publicly announced that they would be freed.
Bauer and Fattal were hiking along the Iraq-Iran border with Bauer’s fiancee Sarah Shourd when they were arrested on charges espionage and illegally crossing the border into Iran. Shourd was released in September 2010 on $500,00 bail amid health concerns, but Fattal and Baurer were detained and sentenced in August to eight years in prison.