Americans convicted in Iran as spies arrive in U.S.

Sep 25, 2011, 10:37 a.m.
Shane Bauer (L), Josh Fattal (C) and Sarah Shourd, U.S. hikers who were held in Iran on charges of espionage, wave before boarding a flight back home in Muscat September 24, 2011. REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two U.S. citizens sentenced in Iran to eight years in jail for spying arrived in New York on Sunday accompanied by family four days after being released by Iranian authorities.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal made the last leg of their journey home after flying to Oman following their release, secured with the help of officials there by posting bail of $1 million.

A fellow passenger confirmed to Reuters TV the two were on board a plane that arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport from London. Officials said they would leave JFK from an exit not open to the media.

A journalist on the flight said that after landing, the hikers were ushered to the front of the aircraft to deplane first.

At the Philadelphia-area home of Fattal's family, in a quiet, residential suburb, neighbors hung a big blue "Welcome Home" banner and posted other homecoming messages in potted flowers. It wasn't clear if or when Fattal might arrive there.

Bauer and Fattal were arrested in July 2009 near Iran's border with Iraq along with a third American, Sarah Shourd, who was freed last year on medical grounds.

The trio, in their late 20s and early 30s, said they were hiking and denied being spies.

Shourd, who is Bauer's fiancee, was released on $500,000 bail a year ago and allowed to fly home, but the two men were sentenced to eight years in prison last month after a trial held behind closed doors.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad agreed to their release last week, saying it was a humanitarian gesture.

Bauer and Fattal were first reunited with loved ones in Oman on September 21.

Before departing the Gulf state for their trip home, the hikers expressed gratitude for the efforts that led to their release and Fattal said they'd like to come back to Oman someday "in happier circumstances."

"I can't express our joy enough of being here in Oman after the experience we have been through. The joy will stay with us forever," Bauer told reporters at Muscat airport.

(Additional reporting by Dave Warner in Philadelphia; Writing by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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