The two American hikers held in an Iranian prison for over two years will be set free today, their attorney says, after the second Iranian judge who has already delayed their release twice has now signed their release order.
Attorney Masoud Shafii, the lawyer representing the Americans, said that the only thing now keeping Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal behind bars is the $500,00 bail each, which their lawyer tells ABC News could be processed today.
“The natural path has taken its course. As I had mentioned before, I was waiting for a signature. This has now happened. There was a small problem with the bail. I requested from them to deal with this problem. I asked them to go to the Central Bank to resolve the issue. I hope that this will be resolved today,” Shafii said today.
Shafii is now inside the notorious Tehran prison where they’ve been held to take them to their freedom, along with the Omani and Swiss diplomats who’ve been negotiating their release. United States interests in Tehran are handled by Switzerland as there is no U.S. embassy there.
The news was also confirmed on the Iranian judiciary’s website, which is comprised mostly of rivals of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. The delay of the hikers’ release has been thought to be an attempt by Ahmadinejad’s political rivals to prevent him from gaining traction on the world stage.
It is expected that Fattal and Bauer will make their first stop out of Iran in Oman, as the Omanis are playing a key part in negotiations of their release. Oman is the same place that their companion Sarah Shourd went to when she was freed from Iran nearly a year ago to the day.
Ahmadinejad announced plans to release Bauer and Fattal on $500,000 bail each last week, just ahead of his appearance before the U.N. General Assembly. Though one judge had signed the paperwork Saturday, Ahmadinejad left for that meeting in New York on Monday with the two American still behind bars.
Bauer and Fattal’s release has been beset by mixed signals since Ahmadinejad indicated a fast-track release. Iran’s judiciary, which is directly controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – swiftly reminded the public that only the courts have the power to control the release’s timing.
The two men were convicted last month for spying and illegally entering Iran and were both sentenced to eight years in prison. They appealed the verdicts and an Iranian court set bail of $500,000 each, opening the way for their release.
Bauer, a freelance journalist, and Fattal, and environmental activist, have denied the charges, saying they were just hiking in Iraq’s scenic north, and may have accidentally crossed an unmarked border with Iran.
Shourd was detained with them, but she was released last September with mediation by Oman after her $500,000 bail was paid. The payment of bail in the cases must be arranged through third parties, like Oman, due to United States’ economic sanctions on Iran.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.