Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal landed at New York's JFK airport on Sunday

By Aaron Parsley and Champ Clark
Updated September 25, 2011 12:15 PM
Credit: Peter Foley/Landov

The American hikers who were imprisoned for more than two years in Iran arrived back in the United States on Sunday.

Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, both 29, landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport shortly before 11 a.m. They spoke at a press conference later, describing their time in solitary confinement as “the worst experience of our lives.”

“In the past few precious days, we are experiencing free life anew,” Fattal said. “Shane and I are now free men.”

The hikers were released Wednesday by Iranian authorities and flew to Oman, where they were reunited with family and friends, including Sarah Shourd, who was with them when they were taken into custody in July 2009. She was released on medical grounds last year.

The hikers, who were convicted of illegal entry into Iran and espionage, were taking into custody while on a hike that originated in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Fattal said that the Iranians had “no right and no justification” for the capture and imprisonment. “It is clear to us that we were hostages,” he continued. “The only reason we were held hostage is because we are Americans.”

Bauer, who stood next to his fiancée Shourd, said, “We were in total isolation from the world and everything we love.” He described their trial in Iran as “a complete sham” full of “ridiculous lies.”

It’s clear, though, that the friends helped each other through the ordeal. “He held me through the worst days of my life,” Fattal said of Bauer. “I can’t imagine how I would have gotten through this without him.”