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Americans convicted in Iran say they were hostages

Sep 25, 2011, 6:54 p.m.
Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal (R), U.S. hikers who were held in Iran on charges of espionage, speak during a news conference in Muscat, ahead of their departure to the United States, September 24, 2011. REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh

"Many times, too many times, we heard the screams of other prisoners being beaten and there was nothing we could do to help them. Solitary confinement was the worst experience of our lives," Fattal said.

"It was clear to us from the very beginning that we were hostages. This is the most accurate term because, despite certain knowledge of our innocence, the Iranian government has always tied our case to its political disputes with the U.S."

Bauer and Fattal thanked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the governments of Turkey and Brazil, Oman and the Swiss ambassador to Iran.

They also expressed gratitude to actor Sean Penn, boxer Muhammad Ali, philosopher Noam Chomsky, singer Yusuf Islam, U.S. anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire.

Bauer and Fattal plan to spend time with their families in an undisclosed location and appealed to the media for privacy.

Despite the secrecy about the men's immediate travel plans, at Fattal's family house in the Philadelphia suburb of Elkins Park neighbors hung a big blue "Welcome Home" banner and posted other homecoming messages in potted flowers.

The collection of signs and plants grew throughout the day Sunday at the red brick home in the quiet suburb.

One sign included the words "With love from all of Elkins Park."

Shourd told the news conference in New York that the trio, in their late 20s and early 30s, would be speaking and writing "at great length" about their ordeal in the future.

She said they regret not knowing more about the area where they chose to go hiking but their detention had nothing to do with them crossing the border.

Bauer said they could not forgive the Iranian government when it continued to imprison other innocent people.

"It is the Iranian people who bear the brunt of this government's cruelty and disregard for human rights," he said.

"If the Iranian government wants to change its image in the world, and ease international pressure, it should release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience immediately. They deserve their freedom just as much as we do."

(Additional reporting by Dave Warner in Philadelphia; Editing by John O'Callaghan and Jerry Norton)

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