Alumni released from detainment in Iranian prison

Two UC Berkeley alumni arrested in Iran for allegedly entering the country illegally were released Wednesday morning on $1 million bail after more than two years in an Iranian prison.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 29, were seized in July 2009 for crossing the border from Iraq into Iran while hiking. Bauer’s fiancee, 33-year-old Sarah Shourd, was also with them but was released last September on $500,000 bail.

According to The New York Times, Bauer and Fattal were seen Wednesday morning by Associated Press reporters leaving Evin Prison in Tehran in a diplomatic convoy that included Swiss and Omani officials. They flew to Muscat, Oman, where they were met by their families and throngs of reporters.

The families of the two hikers said in a statement that the release made Wednesday the “best day of our lives.”

“We now all want nothing more than to wrap Shane and Josh in our arms, catch up on two lost years and make a new beginning, for them and for all of us,” the families said in the statement.

The release of the hikers comes about a week after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised that they would be freed as a humanitarian gesture “in a couple of days.” The next day, Iran’s judiciary contradicted these statements, saying the Americans’ release was not imminent.

Last month, Bauer and Fattal were convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison after more than two years of detention in an Iranian prison. Each received a five-year sentence for espionage and three additional years for allegedly illegally entering the country.

The conviction was widely condemned by world leaders as unnecessarily harsh. Last year, President Barack Obama denied that the three were ever affiliated with the U.S. government, so they could not be guilty of espionage, calling their detention “unjust.”

Claire Holmes, UC Berkeley associate vice chancellor for public affairs and university communications, said in a press release Wednesday that the hikers’ release “brings a joyful end to what was a heartbreaking ordeal for our alums and their loved ones.”

“We are relieved and thankful that our two alumni, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, will soon be reunited with family and friends after more than two years of imprisonment,” she said in the statement.