Hikers free at last, Fattal with family

The day that seemed inevitable — and yet so excruciatingly far away — the entire 25 months Americans Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were imprisoned in an Iran prison finally arrived yesterday.

Fattal, the Elkins Park native, and friend Bauer were freed and reunited with their families in Oman, a small country next to Iran that agreed to hold the much-anticipated reunion.

Both young men rushed into the arms of their parents and siblings, though Bauer’s first hug was for Sarah Shourd, the third American captured by Iranian soldiers in July 2009 but freed late last year. Bauer proposed to Shourd when both were in Evin prison in Tehran.

President Barack Obama, after hearing of their freedom said it was “a wonderful day for them — and for us.”

The two were freed after weeks of political wrangling within Iran’s own government. The notoriously hardline judiciary did not budge initially despite rumors that other political powerplayers, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pushed for their release via $1 million combined bail.

Two judges finally signed off Tuesday.

‘Gesture’ more like ransom

Fattal and Bauer were convicted of spying in August, along with Shourd, who was convicted in absentia. Both men were sentenced to eight years, but experts speculated they would likely not serve the whole term. Ahmadinejad termed their release a “humanitarian gesture.”

One Middle East geopolitical expert recently told Metro that the bail was more like “ransom” that allowed Iran to convict them of espionage despite no evidence and then still free the two eventually on their own terms.

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