UPDATE: As of September 21, after two years in an Iranian prison, American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer have been released.
There’s nothing like taking an innocent hike in the Middle East and wandering into Ahmadinejad territory. Not good. And that’s exactly what three Berkeley grads were doing in the summer of 2009 when they reportedly went one step too far. An Iranian soldier motioned them forward and then snatched Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd into custody; Birkenstocks, backpacks and all.
Shourd was released in September of 2010 on $500,000 bail while the two guys were sentenced to eight years in Iranian prison. Though Ahmadinejad calls their prison stay “like staying in a hotel,” the Ritz-Carlton doesn’t exactly leap to mind. Neither does Motel 6. I’m thinking there’s no business center or gym with elliptical, or even free donuts and coffee for breakfast. I don’t know about you, but one of the last places I’d like to sleep is in an Iranian prison. I like maid service and the “do not disturb” sign… a lot.
So, the word is the guys are going to be set free. It seems as if Ahmadinejad may have hired a PR firm – maybe for 360-degree global marcomm – to soften his image when he told Ann Curry on “Today” that he thought the prisoners were coming home soon. I guess the Tehran PR firm must have told him that “Today” would run and re-run clips of him looking like a really good guy. The fact that the hikers have been up on charges of spying without a shred of evidence doesn’t really come into play in the Iranian justice system, or injustice system.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is “cautious” in her response, yet remained “optimistic.”
Now there might be another monkey wrench in the hikers’ journey. Iran’s court system, not a lot like ours, is deciding to ease on the brakes. Judges say they’re still reviewing the plan to “offer” bail to the two young Americans who I’m sure are waiting things out at the bar at prison happy hour right about now.
If Ahmadinejad knows what’s good for him, he’ll make good on his statement and let the two guys go. How much more can any American detest him?
My suggestion: let’s put Ahmadinejad in a penthouse in his faux hotel, lock the door and let him stay there forever. It’d be a good photo opp for the world to see.