American hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have received an 8-year prison sentence in Iran, 5 years for spying and 3 for crossing the border from Iraq into Iran. The men were seized on July 31, 2009 along with American Sarah Shourd who was released on $500,000 bail in September 2012 for medical reasons. UPDATE 9-14-11: Today there are reports that the Sultanate of Oman has sent an aircraft for Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, and will pay the $500,000 bail for each man, as they did for Sarah Shourd. I’ll have more as details are available.
UPDATE 9-21-11: It’s a good day. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were released to the country of Oman today and video shows them deplaning in that country with family waiting as they hit the tarmac. I believe I saw Sara Shourd embracing Shane Bauer. According to reports, Oman paid a million dollar ransom for the two men. Read the story and see the video here.
Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd became engaged to marry while both were in Tehran’s Evin Prison. Shourd was held for 410 days in solitary confinement. The two lived together in Damascus, Syria before vacationing in Iraq with their friend Josh Fattal.
Fattal worked as an internship coordinator Aprovecho Research Center, a nonprofit research and education center near Cottage Grove, Oregon. He was visiting somewhere in the Middle East when he met-up with Bauer and Shourd for the fateful vacation. Sarah Shourd, the oldest of the three, is 33. Bauer and Fattal are both 29 years old. Read more about Josh Fattal here.
Reports differ as to how the trio got to Ahmed Awad waterfall where they are accused of stepping over the border into Iran. Early reports said their hotel owner tried to dissuade them from the area because it is difficult to discern the actual border. There was also a report of their taxi driver trying to convince them that Ahmed Awad was not a good place for an American to be. However this article describes different circumstances (Shon Meckfessel was the fourth in the party. He felt ill the day the hikers went on their adventure and stayed behind):
“They were polite, no trouble; they didn’t even ask to take a shower,” said Muzafad Mohammed Zeli, the proprietor, a mustachioed 55-year-old wearing traditional baggy cotton pants. On the wall of the reception area, I noticed three photos of the Ahmed Awa waterfall. These pictures, Meckfessel recalls, were part of what had piqued the hikers’ interest in the first place. “All of us asked the owner where we should go to see the mountains,” he says, “and he pointed at the photos.”
Zeli, Meckfessel says, was one of ten people in Kurdistan who recommended they visit Ahmed Awa, but none of them mentioned that it was anywhere near the border. Zeli, however, insisted that he’d never discussed Ahmed Awa with the four. “If I had known,” he told me, “I would have warned them not to go.”
Ahmed Awa wasn’t on the Americans’ map, but they decided that it must lie in a mountain range near Dukhan, north of Sulaymaniyah and about 30 miles west of the border. They imagined following a hiking circuit through the mountains, camping under the stars. “For the Kurds, Ahmed Awa is a two-hour trip,” Meckfessel says. “We were thinking in terms of Yosemite—several days.”
In November 2008, Sarah, writing for Matador News, said everyday she is “ashamed” of America for the war fought in Iraq. She is an obvious Palestinian sympathizer. I could take her viewpoints seriously had she pointed out in her columns that there is no Palestinian state because the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and Hamas refuse to recognize Israel’s existence in their governing documents. It’s the issue no one wants to acknowledge, and it seems young Americas are dimmer than the issue than most.
Bauer and Shourd have learned some very painful lessons. Their support for Arabs, their lack of support for Jews, their embracing of the Arabic language, did them no good at all. The leaders of most Arab countries hate Americans wherever they may be in the world.
So, this latest news about Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal is sobering. They can appeal and there is a possibility if the appeal fails, they can be released early. Perhaps they can be a part of a political resolution before the 8 years is up. No American deserves to be in Evin Prison, and thinking these three are spies is ludicrous.