Hikers Return to the U.S.: 'We Were Held Hostage'

The two men spoke in New York after arriving back in the United States.

ByABC News
September 25, 2011, 8:44 AM

Sept. 25, 2011 — -- The two U.S. hikers imprisoned in Iran for the past two years, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, said they were "held hostage" because they were American.

Fattal and Bauer spoke publicly about the details of their imprisonment for the first time since regaining their freedom last week.

At a New York City hotel, each man read prepared statements discussing what they endured in Iranian prison and thanking those who fought for their release.

"Many times, too many times, we heard the screams of other prisoners being beaten and there was nothing we could do to help them," Fattal said. "How can we forgive the Iranian government when it continues to imprison so many other innocent people and prisoners of conscience?"

Bauer said one irony in the case was that they opposed the U.S. policy toward Iran which they believe was the impetus for their arrest and detention.

The two had spoken earlier in Oman, which had played a key part in the negotiations of the hikers' release.

"We hope someday to return to this wonderful country but for now we are eager to go home at last," Fattal said.

Fattal and Bauer arrived in New York before noon and addressed the media just under five hours later.

Oman is the same place that their companion Sarah Shourd went when she was freed from Iran nearly a year ago to the day.

Shourd was in Oman to greet Fattal and give a long welcoming kiss to her fiancée, Bauer.

"We will never forget the excitement of seeing our loved ones waiting for us at the foot of the plane. The joy of embracing them all after so long will stay with us forever," Bauer said.

"We are so happy we are free and so relieved we are free," Fattal told reporters upon arriving. "Our deepest gratitude to his majesty [Omani King] Sultan Qaboos [bin Said Al Said] for obtaining our release. We are sincerely grateful to the government of Oman for hosting us and our families."

Fattal, Bauer and Shourd were arrested two years ago while hiking along Iran's unmarked border with Iraq.

They were accused of spying and last month Fattal and Bauer were sentenced to eight years in prison.

Bauer, a freelance journalist, and Fattal, and environmental activist, have denied the charges, saying they were just hiking in Iraq's scenic north, and might have accidentally crossed an unmarked border with Iran.

Oman gave them a chance to put their 26 months in captivity far out of their minds.

"We were able to swim in the calm waters of the Gulf. We stayed up all night with our loved ones and watched the most beautiful sunrise we have ever seen. These experiences will be with us for the rest of our lives," said Fattal.

Fattal and Bauer have not said a word about their imprisonment, declining to answer all related questions from the press.

The hikers' families have described the freeing of Bauer and Fattal as "the best day of our lives."

President Obama also hailed the development earlier this week.

"I welcome the release of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal from detention in Iran and am very pleased that they are being reunited with their loved ones," Obama said in a written statement Wednesday. "The tireless advocacy of their families over these two years has won my admiration, and is now coming to an end with Josh and Shane back in their arms. All Americans join their families and friends in celebrating their long-awaited return home."

ABC News' Jim Sciutto, Kevin Dolak, Russell Goldman and Michael S. James contributed to this report.