NBC’s Ann Curry has interviewed Iran’s controversial President Ahmadinejad in Tehran. It appears that Ahmadinejad has announced the imminent release of Americans, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, arrested in July of 2009 when the purportedly strayed over the Iran-Iraq border into Iran, while on a hiking excursion in Iraq.
Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were accompanied by Sara Shourd, who was also arrested in July, but released in September of 2010 on $500,000 bail. The two men were retained by the judiciary of the Islamic Republic for a trial. They were tried and sentenced this past August to 8 years of prison for, among other offenses, “espionage”.
Ahmadinejad is currently embroiled in a power struggle with Iran’s Principalist conservative faction, a loose group of clerics, politicians and Revolutionary-Guards-affiliated individuals that used to support him, but that he lost favor with due to controversial policies he has pursued since the disputed 2009 presidential election. He is also taking heat for his relationship with his close confidante, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, whom Khamenei, the clerical head of the regime oft referred to as the “Supreme Leader”, does not like very much.
The judiciary has acted against close associates of the President’s and Mashaei’s in recent months and the parliament has been openly hostile to him.
Watching the interview, unless you can understand Persian, you might miss that the President says he is hopeful that the two men will be released within a couple of days. His announcement, while promising, should not be taken as definite just yet. It would have to be approved by the Supreme Leader himself before the judiciary would implement it. Given that Ahmadinejad has acted independently of Khamenei to the point where several times, Khamenei has ordered him to reverse his actions, INN is remaining cautious on this announcement, but optimistic nonetheless.
According to the L.A. Times, the lawyer representing the the hikers has said that they would be released upon payment of $500,000 bail, each.