Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were each sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran for allegedly spying
US hikers Shane Bauer (left) and Josh Fattal, convicted of spying in Iran, attend their trial in Tehran in February. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reaffirmed in an interview released Tuesday that his country would release them despite delays. © - AFP/Presss TV/File
Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were each sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran for allegedly spying
AFP
Last updated: September 21, 2011

Iran president reaffirms plan to free US hikers

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reaffirmed in an interview released Tuesday that his country would release two US hikers convicted of spying and jailed in Tehran, despite delays.

"I did say within the next few days and I still say the same thing. And God willing they will be released very soon," Ahmadinejad told ABC television amid concern over a delay on the release since his announcement last week on the two Americans, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal.

ABC released excerpts of the interview, portions of which were to air Tuesday on "World News with Diane Sawyer" with the full interview appearing Wednesday on "Good Morning America."

ABC interviewed the Iranian president after he landed in New York to attend a meeting at the UN General Assembly.

"We act upon whatever we say. And if we don't want to act, we won't say it. We didn't make this decision under pressure," the Iranian leader said, according to ABC.

"It's a humanitarian decision. Although, a lot of people are in jail or in prison in American prisons, inside the United States, in Europe, on ships unfortunately there are a lot of people without having had the opportunity of a fair trial."

In Iran, a lawyer for the two said Bauer and Fattal were still in a prison in Tehran as a judge who is to authorize their release has yet to return from leave.

Ahmadinejad told US media last week that the pair, who have been held since being arrested near the mountainous border with Iraq on July 31, 2009, would be released imminently.

But the judiciary, dominated by ultra-conservatives, said later that no decision had yet been taken and that it was studying a request by the lawyer to post bail.

Bauer and Fattal were arrested along with a third hiker, Sarah Shourd, who left Iran in September last year after being granted bail on humanitarian and medical grounds.

Shourd's bail had been set at $500,000 and was paid through Oman, a US Gulf ally that maintains friendly relations with Iran.

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