Iran to pardon and release US hikers
TEHRAN - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he intends to release two Americans who have been jailed on charges of espionage for two years and grant them a “unilateral pardon.’’
“I am helping to arrange for their release in a couple of days so they will be able to return home,’’ Ahmadinejad said in an hourlong interview at his office here. “This is of course going to be a unilateral humanitarian gesture.’’
The Americans, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 29, were arrested along with another American while they were hiking along the Iran-Iraq border two years ago. In August, they were sentenced to eight years in prison.
The other American, Sarah Shourd, was released in September 2010 after posting a $500,000 bail.
Asked if Bauer and Fattal would definitely be released this week, Ahmadinejad said: “I hope so. I hope I will do that.’’
The president’s decisions are subject to review by clerical authorities in the Islamic republic.
Massoud Shaffi, a lawyer representing the hikers, said he had been told by court officials that each of them would have to pay $500,000 in bail, as Shourd had to do.
“Basically if they don’t pay their bail, they won’t be freed,’’ Shaffi said. “I don’t know who arranged this, the court or the president. The judiciary has said that everything is being done according to their procedures.’’
Ahmadinejad said Bauer and Fattal will be “free to choose’’ how they return to the United States.