Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, out of Iranian prison, join Occupy Movement

Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal: Free, and protesting.
Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal: Free, and protesting.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal spent more than two years locked up in Iran, a country with some of the most restrictive free speech rights in the world. Now that they're back in the United States, Bauer and Fattal are flexing their First Amendment rights and throwing their support behind the Oakland chapter of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Appearing at an Occupy Oakland event last night, Bauer, Fattal, and Bauer's fiancee Sarah Shourd -- also a prisoner in Iran, though she was released early -- brought momentum to a protest that's 2,500 miles away from the actual Wall Street.

Bauer, a Minnesota native and freelance journalist, described the Occupy movement as "a wonderful homecoming."
"To see our country coming back to life, and this city coming back to life like this, is really, really a wonderful homecoming," he said.

Around 300 people were in attendance to hear their speeches Monday night. The freed prisoners' support was the second such celebrity sighting for Occupy Oakland, which  on Saturday was boosted by the appearance of actor Danny Glover.

The presence of Bauer, Fattal, and Shourd obviously drew media attention because of their experience in Iran, where Bauer and Fattal were convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison. But their very public appearance at Occupy Oakland can't be shrugged off as a cynical play on newfound fame: Shourd is an Oakland native, and Bauer and Fattal graduated from UC Berkeley, where public protesting is basically taught as part of student orientation.

Indeed, while at Berkeley, the three of them participated in tree-sitting protests -- occupying trees on campus to prevent the school from tearing them down to build an athletics facility, KGO-TV reports.

Fattal told the crowd he had not eaten in 24 hours in solidarity with the strike taking place in California prisons, where some 150 prisoners are going hungry and demanding better treatment.

Bauer said that the city of Oakland is "part of my heart."

"This," Bauer said, "is the perfect place to celebrate our freedom."

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