Two American Hikers to Be Released From Iran Today

Shane Bauer, left, and Josh Fattal, right (AP Photo)

TEHRAN, Iran (The Blaze/AP) — After a judge’s vacation created a snag in the release of two Americans jailed as spies in Iran, Fox News is reporting that they were released today. This revelation came from their lawyer after the court approved a $1 million bail-for-freedom deal that cleared the way for the men to return home after more than two years in custody.

The Iranian attorney for the two, Masoud Shafiei, said earlier that he planned to go to Tehran’s Evin prison to begin the procedure for the release of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal.

“The case is over,” Shafiei said. “The court has ordered that they be freed on bail.”

They were arrested along the Iran-Iraq border in July 2009 and sentenced last month to eight years each in prison. A third American in the group, Sarah Shourd, was freed last year on bail.

Shafiei initially said he would meet the two Americans at 3:00 p.m. at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, though he could not independently confirm that the two have now been discharged.

Following their release, the original plan said that they would be handed over to the Swiss diplomats who represent American interests in Iran because the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Iran.

“Now we can say they are finally free,” the lawyer told The Associated Press. “They can go to the U.S. the way (their friend) Sarah did.”

Two American Hikers to Be Released From Iran TodayThe case of Bauer and Fattal, who were convicted of spying for the United States, has deepened the mistrust between Washington and Tehran.

Shafiei said the bail of $500,000 for each of the men was posted after some last-minute problems in the bank were resolved. He did not say what the source of the money was.

“There is no obstacle to their freedom now,” the lawyer said. “It’s only a matter of time before they are out of jail.”

The release of the pair will likely follow the pattern of that of Shourd, who was set free last September after a $500,000 bails was posted. She was then flown on a private plane to the Omani capital, Muscat.

Last week, Oman dispatched a plane belonging to the Gulf country’s ruler to fetch the two Americans if the freedom-for-bail was reached.

Omani officials declined to comment on the ongoing proceedings for the Americans’ release. They only said the private plane, sent from Muscat to the Iranian capital last Wednesday, was still in Tehran.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Oman has close ties with both Tehran and Washington and plays a strategic role in the region by sharing control with Iran of the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, which is the route for 40 percent of the world’s oil tanker traffic.

The three Americans – friends from their days at the University of California at Berkeley – have maintained their innocence and denied the espionage charges against them.

Their families say they were just hiking in northern Iraq’s scenic and relatively peaceful Kurdish region when they may have accidentally strayed over the unmarked border with Iran.

Since her release last year, Shourd has lived in Oakland, California. Bauer, a freelance journalist, grew up in Onamia, Minnesota, and Fattal, an environmental activist, is from suburban Philadelphia.

Bauer proposed marriage to Shourd while in prison.

Phone messages left for Fattal’s mother and brother in Philadelphia were not immediately returned Wednesday.

It was not clear where the two men will be reunited with their families after their release. The last direct contact family members had with Bauer and Fattal was in May 2010 when their mothers were permitted a short visit in Tehran.

This is a breaking news story. Stay tuned for updates.