Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal freed by Iran

Shane Bauer, left, and Josh Fattal are finally free.
Shane Bauer, left, and Josh Fattal are finally free.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal are coming home, and not a moment too soon.

Two years after they were first detained in Iran on fraudulent spying charges, and two months into an eight-year prison sentence, Bauer, a Minnesota native and international journalist and photographer, and Fattal are free, as confirmed by multiple news sources and U.S. State Department officials.

Bauer and Fattal's case has gone through a series of twists and turns, including the most recent episode in which Iran's reigning megalomaniac, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said last week that the Americans would be let out within "a couple of days." Then, this week, the liberation was again delayed thanks to an absentee judge's "vacation."

You know who could use a vacation right about now? Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal.

Then, after a little rest and relaxation, Bauer can get back to some pretty bold journalism, like the stuff he's done for The Nation magazine, and the photographs and writing that appear on his personal website.

Shane Bauer, depicted in self-portrait, is an accomplished journalist and photographer.
Shane Bauer, depicted in self-portrait, is an accomplished journalist and photographer.

Bauer and Fattal have been released to Swiss and Omani officials, who were seen entering the prison this morning, and their freedom has been confirmed on Iranian state television, CNN reports.

Fattal, Bauer, and Bauer's girlfriend Sarah Shourd were detained by Iranian authorities in 2009 for having trespassed onto Iranian soil as they hiked through Iraq. The Americans, who were on their way toward Iraq's Kurdistan region, claim they never crossed the Iranian border -- and that if they did by accident, they certainly weren't there as American spies.

Shourd was returned to the U.S. earlier this year on a $500,000 bail, though charges against her were never officially dropped. Bauer and Fattal's release was also conditional, resting on similar payments of $500,000 each, according to the Washington Post.

At this point it's unclear who would've cut the check: In Shourd's case, her family had said it couldn't afford to pay that amount, while the  U.S. State Department, which has no formal relations with Iran, stated that it refused to pay such a ransom.

The timing of Bauer and Fattal's release is not lost on anyone. Ahmadinejad is in New York right now for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, and he's scheduled to address that body tomorrow.

Exactly when the Americans would be back on American soil remains to be seen, but Oman has offered to fly them out of Iran, as it did for Shourd, flying her to Oman where she was met by her mother at the airport.

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