The three Americans who were held in an Iranian prison after being accused of spying arrived back in the U.S. Sunday, ending a two year ordeal that began with what they called a wrong turn in a wrong country.
Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd spoke to the American media in New York just hours after returned from Oman. All three are U.C. Berkeley graduates. Shourd is from Oakland and has been living there since her release last year, according to AP.
Fattal and Bauer were held for another year and were released last week.
In two short news conferences in Oman, Fattal and Bauer spoke only of gratefulness to the people who helped secure their freedom, the joy they felt seeing their loved ones and a promise to come back at a future date. On Sunday that tone changed from thankful to angry.
In a prepared written statement both Fattal and Bauer talked about the last two years of their life. Shourd was not part of the statement, but did talk to the media at the end of the highly choreographed event.
Fattal spoke first and said that he considered all three of them "hostages" during their time in prison. He said he didn't know he was going to be released until the day it happened. He said his lawyer told them by surprise, "Let's go home."
Fattal said they had to go on hunger strikes just to get mail from their loved ones.
Iran's Foreign Ministry called the release a gesture of Islamic mercy, but Fattal said while it was a a good gesture, he wanted to make it clear that Iran did not deserve credit for ending something they had no right starting in the right place.
Bauer spoke next and said he would always regret the heartache their hiking trip caused their loved ones, but said what happened to them never had anything to do with them crossing a border. He said the only reason they were arrested and held is because of a hostile relationship between American and Iran that goes back to 1979. He said there was never proof that the three of them physically crossed what is an unmarked border.
He said his answer to the common question of whether they forgive: 'How can we when the Iranian government continues to imprison innocent people?'
Bauer said every time they complained about conditions, the guard would remind them of the conditions at Guantanamo Bay.
Shourd did not read from a prepared statement but did answer questions of the gathered reporters after Fattal and Bauer left.. She also said the guards often brought up Guantanamo Bay when she complained about conditions. She said she found that ironic, because she, Fattal and Bauer had been critics of the U.S. government for the treatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners.
The group did not talk about immediate plans for the future. Shourd mentioned writing and speaking.
The organizer of the event said that Sunday's new conference would be the last for the hikers and their families.