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U.S. hikers jailed in Iran could soon be freed on $1 million bail

September 13, 2011 |  6:50 am

Two Americans convicted in Iran of espionage and illegally crossing over the nation's border could be freed if they pay $500,000 each in bail, an attorney for the men says.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the men will be released “in two days,” according to NBC, which interviewed Ahmadinejad in a report scheduled to air later Tuesday. Masoud Shafiei, the attorney for the men, said that he had contacted their families to relay the bail news from Iran's  Revolutionary Court.

Josh Fattal of Pennsylvania and Shane Bauer, who grew up in Minnesota and lived in California's Bay Area, have insisted that they were hiking in Iraq -- not spying -- when they were seized by Iranian forces along the Iran-Iraq border in 2009. A third companion, Sarah Shourd of Los Angeles, also was arrested but was released in September 2010 on $500,000 bail.

All three are graduates of UC Berkeley. While they were in prison together, Shourd, who is an educator, and Bauer, a freelance journalist, became engaged.

Bauer and Fattal were later held in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison while Shafiei worked to secure their release. At one point, the attorney blasted the prosecution's case, saying, "In the past two years, I have not seen any evidence to prove my clients are spies. It is as if anyone carrying a toothbrush in his satchel is a spy."

President Obama and other U.S. officials have repeatedly called for the men's release, and the case has exacerbated political tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Relatives of the men, however, have steadfastly continued to hope and to campaign that the men be released as a gesture of goodwill.

It's unclear what their release would mean for U.S.-Iran relations, which are already strained over -- among other things -- that country's nuclear strategy. In the last few days alone, Ahmadinejad has repeated his claims that the U.S. government staged the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to justify overseas aggression.


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Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

Photo: Hikers Shane Bauer, left, and Josh Fattal, as they appeared in a Tehran courtroom earlier this year. Credit: Reuters