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Iran's Ahmadinejad announces imminent release of two US hikers

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today that US hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal would be released within two days. The Revolutionary Guard carried the message, implying support for the deal.

American hikers Shane Bauer (l.) and Josh Fattal (c.) and their translator attend the first session of their trial at the revolutionary court in Tehran in this Feb. 6 file photo. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sept. 13 that the two US hikers arrested near Iran's border with Iraq and sentenced for espionage will soon be released in a humanitarian gesture.

Press TV/Reuters

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Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced that two American hikers accused of spying will be released within two days in a “unilateral humanitarian gesture," just days before he heads to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly.

The fate of the arrested Americans has from the start been closely tied to the hostile relationship between the US and Islamic Republic, as well as to Iran’s own turbulent internal politics.

In two separate interviews with US media in Tehran, Mr. Ahmadinejad said that he was personally trying to arrange the freedom of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, who have spent more than two years in Iranian prison.

The two were arrested in late July 2009 with their friend Sarah Shourd for crossing illegally into Iran while hiking in northern Iraq. Ms. Shourd was released one year ago on “humanitarian” and medical grounds, Iranian officials said at the time, after posting $500,000 bail.

Iran convicted all three of espionage in August, giving eight-year sentences for spying during a closed-door trial in which no evidence was made public. The three accused and their families reject the charges, and say they inadvertently strayed into Iran while hiking along the remote, unmarked border.

Mr. Ahmadinejad told NBC News that he expected an "arrangement" to be made: “I think these two persons will be freed in a couple days.”

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