US hikers condemn Iran's brutality, but also US practices
Two US hikers freed after more than two years in an Iranian prison Sunday condemned the "brutality" of the Iranian regime but also criticized their own country for alleged human rights violations, dpa reported.
Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal arrived in the United States earlier Sunday, days after they were freed from Iran's Evin Prison on 1-million-dollars in bail and travelled to Oman, one of the chief mediators on their behalf.
Surrounded by family in New York, Bauer and Fattal took turns reading a joint statement to press gathered in New York. They described the long periods of solitary confinement and the "world of lies and false hopes" their jailers subjected them to.
Bauer said that they had "experienced a taste of the Iranian regime's brutality" and never were allowed visits by the Swiss consular officials who represents the United States, nor by their lawyer.
"We had to go on hunger strike repeatedly just to receive letters from our loved ones," Fattal said. "Many times, too many times, we heard screams of other prisoners being beaten and there was nothing we could do."
Bauer described being held "in almost total isolation from the world and everything we love, stripped of our rights and freedom."
"You may ask us, now that you are free, can you forgive the Iranian government for what it has done to you? Our answer is this: How can we forgive the Iranian government when it continues to imprison so many other innocent people and prisoners of conscience?" Bauer said.
But Bauer also noted that whenever they complained to Iranian guards about their treatment, they were reminded of "comparable conditions" at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba, where the US government has held international terrorist suspects for years, often without charges even being filed.
"We do not believe such human rights violations on the part of our government justify" Iran's treatment of prisoners, Bauer said.
"We do believe these actions on the part of the United States provide an excuse for other governments, including the government of Iran" to maltreat Americans, Bauer said.
Bauer and Fattal were detained in July 2009 with their companion Sarah Shourd after allegedly crossing into Iran from Iraq's Kurdistan region while hiking. Shourd, who has become engaged to marry Bauer in recent days, was released after the first 14 months on health grounds.
The hikers insisted they were innocent of Iran's spying charges and were not even sure they had crossed the border into Iran when they were seized, and if they had, it was by accident.
They said they had been detained because they were Americans. "The Iranian government tied our case to its political disputes with the US," Fattal said.
Bauer noted the "irony" that "Sarah, Josh and I opposed American policies" that they said promoted hostility with Iran.