Sean Penn Secured Iran Hikers' Release: Report

Source tells Reuters that left-leaning actor was instrumental in securing UC Berkeley students' release

Actor Sean Penn's left-leaning politics may have helped secure the release of two Americans held in an Iranian prison for more than two years.

The Bay Area resident and known political activist reportedly flew to Venezuela to ask President Hugo Chavez to ask his Iranian counterpart to release Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal.

The two former UC Berkeley students, along with classmate Sarah Shourd, said they were hiking near the Iraq-Iran border when they were detained by Iranian authorities on July 31, 2009.

The Persian country accused them of being CIA spies and convicted them to prison sentences before releasing Shourd for humanitarian purposes. Bauer and Fattal were released this week after their releases were negotiated with the Iranian government.

The two men may have Jeff Spicoli to thank for their release, according to a source "close to the release process" who spoke with Reuters.

"The American 'intellectual' who took up the case with him was Sean Penn," the source told Reuters. "Penn was very committed to the case ... He flew to Caracas several months ago to raise it with Chavez and he kept on it."

Penn has made highly public trips to Venezuela and Iran in recent years and written about them for The San Francisco Chronicle and The Huffington Post.

The Oscar-winning actor has also been vocal on political causes such as gay marriage and he was intimately involved with Haiti's recovery after its devastating earthquake in 2010.

A representative for Penn confirmed Reuters' account of the story to the publication.

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