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U.S. Men Released From Iran Jail Arrive In Oman


U.S. Men Released From Iranian Prison Arrive In Oman
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WATCH: Two U.S. men freed from prison in Iran receive an emotional welcome from their families as they arrive in Oman.

Two U.S. men who were released from an Iranian prison after being held for more than two years have landed in the Omani capital of Muscat, where they were reunited with their families.

Earlier, the families of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, who are both 29, described the release as "the best day in [their] lives."

The men's safe passage out of Iran was followed quickly by statements from U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who thanked the governments of Oman, Iraq, and Switzerland for helping to negotiate the release.

Clinton also expressed gratitude for the efforts of "those inside Iran who pushed for justice."

Obama said, "All Americans join their families and friends in celebrating [Bauer and Fattal's] long-awaited return home."

The two men had left Tehran around nightfall on September 21.

It is not known how long they will stay in Oman, but they are expected to soon make their way back to the United States.

Bail Of $1 Million

The two men's lawyer, Massoud Shafei, said he received judicial approval earlier on September 21 for a bail payment of about $1 million that paved the way for their release.

Bail money was routed through Oman because Iran and the United States have no diplomatic or banking relations.

Switzerland has represented U.S. interests in Iran since Washington cut off diplomatic relations with Tehran shortly after its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Bauer and Fattal were detained in July 2009 with their companion, Sarah Shourd, also a U.S. citizen, along the Iran-Iraq border.

Shourd was released in September 2010 on health grounds after $500,000 bail, also facilitated by Oman, was posted.

The three said they were hiking in the mountains of northern Iraq and that if they crossed the unmarked border they did so unknowingly.

An Unexpected Turn Of Events

But a Tehran court in August ruled that Bauer and Fattal were guilty of espionage and illegally entering Iran -- sentencing each of them to eight years in prison.

The case took an unexpected turn after President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said last week that the two men would be released as a humanitarian gesture.

Analysts say Ahmadinejad's announcement was an attempt to improve his international standing ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting that starts on September 21.

Iraqi officials say Iraqi President Jalal Talabani helped to mediate the release deal.

Iran's judiciary denied last week that the release was imminent, saying that the matter was under review. But the judiciary confirmed on September 21 that Bauer and Fattal would be released from prison after the bail payment was received.

The U.S. government denies that Bauer, Fattal and Shourd were spies.

Amnesty International called the men's release "a long overdue development".

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the group's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said, "All available evidence strongly suggests that the Iranian authorities have known all along that these men were not spies and should have been released."

with agency reports
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