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Iran releases US prisoners to diplomats

Two United States citizens jailed as spies in Iran two years ago have been released on bail to Swiss and Omani diplomats in Tehran.

Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer were driven straight to the airport in a convoy escorted by Omani officials, and including the Swiss ambassador.

A report by the official Iranian news agency that they had immediately left for the Omani capital, Muscat, was subsequently denied.

The two were released from the notorious Evin prison after a $1 million (SFr890,000) bail-for-freedom deal was approved by the Iranian courts. The French news agency reported that the Sultanate of Oman had paid the bail for the two men.

They had been arrested along the Iran-Iraq border in July 2009 and sentenced to eight years in prison. A third member of the group, Sarah Shoud, was also arrested and released on a similar $500,000 bail deal last September.

In the absence of diplomatic ties between the United States and Iran, Switzerland represents US interests in the Islamic state. 

In a statement the US ambassador to Switzerland, Donald Beyer, thanked Switzerland for its “extensive engagement" on behalf of the men over the past two years.

“We are enormously grateful to the Swiss government for all its efforts on behalf of these two Americans,” Beyer said. 

“Switzerland has unfailingly represented US interests, intervening over and over on behalf of Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer, demanding proper treatment, and contributing greatly to closing the chapter on these unwarranted charges.”

The trio had maintained their innocence of the charges against them, saying they were hiking in northern Iraq’s scenic Kurdish region when they may have accidently strayed over the Iranian border. and agencies

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