Two American hikers imprisoned since 2009 in Iran were released on Wednesday after the Gulf sultanate of Oman paid a $1 million bail. Additional efforts to win the pair’s freedom came from the United Nations, Iraq, Chavez and, surprisingly, from Sean Penn. The longtime actor and political activist visited Chavez to convince the Venezuelan leader to appeal to his Iranian ally.
A 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’s spokeswoman confirmed account, but would give no further details.
Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, who is Jewish, were arrested for espionage while hiking along the Iraq border.
"This was never about crossing the unmarked border," Bauer told reporters in a New York hotel. "We were held because of our nationality. We do not know if we crossed the border. We will probably never know."
Though the pair’s captors probably knew Fattal’s religion, or learned it during interrogations, his family did not want to needlessly endanger their son by publicizing his Jewish heritage.