x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

American hikers who were jailed for spying in Iran fly home to US

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal express gratitude to Sultan Qaboos of Oman, for his efforts that led to their release and say: 'We would like to come back to Oman some day in happier circumstances.'

MUSCAT // The two American hikers jailed for spying in Iran headed home on Saturday night after 26 months in prison.

After their release they were initially taken to Muscat, after the Omanis paid a US$1 million (Dh3.67m) bail.

Shane Bauer, speaking at Muscat airport before he and Josh Fattal, the other released hiker, left for the US. said: "I can't stress our joy enough of being here in Oman after the experience we have been through. The joy will stay with us forever. I stayed all night with my loved ones until sunrise the day we were released.

"Our gratitude to His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos of Oman, for his efforts that led to our release. We would like to come back to Oman some day in happier circumstances."

Last month, Mr Fattal and Mr Bauer were each jailed for eight years for illegal entry into Iran and espionage. They were released on Wednesday and arrived in Oman.

Iran's foreign ministry called the release a gesture of Islamic mercy.

The pair's ordeal began in July 2009, when they were detained along the Iran-Iraq border along with Sarah Shourd, who was freed a year ago under similar terms.

Ms Shourd was in Oman to greet her fiance, Mr Bauer. He proposed while they were in the Iranian jail.

The trio always maintained their innocence.

sshaibany@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by the Associated Press