OAKLAND, Calif. — Three Americans who were imprisoned in Iran and accused of spying voiced their support Monday for activists with the Occupy Wall Street movement and California prisoners protesting solitary confinement conditions.
Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd each spoke at the "Occupy Oakland" encampment in front of City Hall where dozens of activists have been sleeping in tents for the past week.
The three University of California, Berkeley, graduates thanked supporters who advocated for their release and said they are inspired by the Wall Street protests.
"This is the perfect place to celebrate our freedom," said Bauer, a freelance journalist who proposed to Shourd while they were in prison. "I feel proud of this happening in my city."
The three were accused of being spies and arrested by Iranian authorities in July 2009 while hiking near the Iran-Iraq border. Shourd, 33, was released in September 2010 after 14 months in prison.
After 26 months behind bars, Fattal and Bauer, both 29, were sentenced in August to eight years in prison for illegal entry into Iran and espionage. On Sept. 21, they were released under a $1 million bail deal. Iran's Foreign Ministry called their release a gesture of Islamic mercy.
In Oakland, the trio voiced support for prisoners who have gone on a hunger strike to demand better conditions in solitary confinement units at California's maximum-security prisons.
Fattal, an environmental activist, said he has been on a hunger strike for 24 hours to show solidarity with the California prisoners who are refusing food.
"Solitary confinement was the most cruel part of my detainment, and getting out of solitary was the first moment in a long process of feeling more free," Fattal said. "Here in Oakland I feel like my freedom has hit a whole other level."