Iran hiker Josh Fattal home ‘in a couple days’

The families of two American hikers detained in Iran are preparing for their release this week a day after an Iranian court set bail at $500,000 for each of them.

Elkins Park native Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, of Minnesota, have been detained since July 2009 when they crossed into Iran while hiking and were accused of espionage, along with Sarah Shourd, who was released last year due to medical concerns.

The hikers’ attorney Masoud Shafiei told media outlets the two would pay the same amount as Shourd when she was released.

“The families of these two Americans and the Swiss embassy, which hosts the U.S. interests section in Tehran, have been informed of this issue and Bauer and Fattal can leave Iran similar to Sara Shourd,” Shafiei said, according to Fars News Agency in Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the two could be free “in a couple days” in a pre-recorded interview on NBC’s “Today” show, which aired yesterday. Ahmadinejad described it as a “humanitarian gesture” and referred several times to Iranians being held in U.S. prisons.

Last month, Fatal and Bauer were convicted on spy-related charges and sentenced to eight years in prison, while Shourd was convicted in absentia.

The U.S. government has repeatedly called for the release of the hikers since their capture. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States was “encouraged” by Ahmadinejad’s most recent comments.

‘Ransom’ not uncommon

Allowing the Americans to pay their way out of the country despite a conviction last month didn’t surprise one Muslim world expert, who described the bail as a sort of ransom to allow Iran “to get off of a very high tree that was not supporting them.”

“This is actually according to Muslim tradition,” said University of Denver professor Shaul Gabbay, a leading authority on the Middle East. “Even in some cases where blood revenge is involved, you can have ransom money instead [of violent action]. So in general, financial arrangements even for the life of an individual is not uncommon.”

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