Two American hikers, imprisoned in Iran as “American spies” for more than two years, have landed in Oman after being released.
Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal were greeted by their families, who described it as “the best day of our lives”.
The men were arrested in 2009 hiking along an unmarked border with Iraq and accused of spying. This week an Iranian judge, who had twice delayed their release, agreed they could walk free after Oman posted bail deposits of $1m.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is believed to have asked the judiciary to fast-track the men’s release, ahead of his visit to the UN this week. The two men were sentenced to eight years in prison for spying and illegally entering Iran.
US President Barack Obama said: “The tireless advocacy of their families over these two years has won my admiration, and is now coming to an end with Josh and Shane back in their arms. All Americans join their families and friends in celebrating their long-awaited return hom e
The families said in a statement: “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."”
Both President Obama and President Ahmadinejad are in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
A third hiker, Sarah Shourd, was released a year ago, also negotiated by the Omanis. She greet Mr Fattal and Mr Bauer, her fiancé, in Muscat after their plane landed. The government of Oman paid the $1m bail to secure the men’s release. The country also paid for Ms Shourd’s release last year. The payments had to be arranged through third parties because of the US economic sanctions against Iran.