UC hikers released on $1 million bail

The two American hikers and former UC Berkeley students detained for allegedly crossing the Iranian border more than two years ago were released early Wednesday morning on a $1 million bail by the Iranian authorities, The New York Times reported.

According to The Times, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal — who were seized in 2009 for crossing into Iran while hiking along the Iran-Iraq border with Bauer’s fiancee, Sarah Shourd — were seen by Associated Press reporters leaving Evin Prison in a diplomatic convoy including Swiss and Omani officials.

As of 7:44 a.m., Bauer and Fattal had been turned over to the custody of Omani officials, according to CNN. A couple hours later an airplane carrying Fattal and Bauer left Tehran for Muscat, Oman.

The families of the two hikers released the following statement Wednesday after the pair had left Tehran:

“Today can only be described as the best day of our lives.  We have waited for nearly 26 months for this moment and the joy and relief we feel at Shane and Josh’s long-awaited freedom knows no bounds.  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.  For now, we especially would like to thank His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said of Oman and his envoy Dr. Salem Al Ismaily; our lawyer, Mr. Masoud Shafiei; and the Swiss Ambassador to Iran, Livia Leu Agosti, and her colleagues, for working to make today a reality.  At the same time, our deep gratitude extends to many, many others, from governments, institutions and noted campaigners to tens of thousands of people around the world.  Their support for Shane, Josh, Sarah and our families has sustained us and comforted us throughout this time.  Our appreciation for the warmth and love of our fellow human beings is unending and we know that Shane and Josh will always be grateful.”

The release of the men comes about a week after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised that they would be freed as a humanitarian gesture “in a couple of days.”

A day later, Iran’s judiciary contradicted these statements, saying the Americans’ release was not imminent.

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.

Stephanie Baer is the city news editor.