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Sean Penn played a role in hikers' release from Iran

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:46 PM EDT, Fri September 23, 2011
Actor Sean Penn helped secure this week's release of two U.S. hikers imprisoned in Iran for more than two years.
Actor Sean Penn helped secure this week's release of two U.S. hikers imprisoned in Iran for more than two years.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Reuters: Penn flew to Venezuela to speak to Chavez about the American hikers
  • Penn's rep confirms the report but declines to give additional details
  • Chavez was part of the mediation process, state media says

(CNN) -- Actor Sean Penn helped play a role in securing this week's release of two U.S. hikers imprisoned in Iran for more than two years, his representative confirmed Friday.

The report was first published by the Reuters news agency, which cited a source close to the release process as saying that Penn flew to Venezuela months ago to speak about the hikers' plight with President Hugo Chavez, an ally of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mara Buxbaum, a rep for Penn, confirmed the Reuters report but declined to provide additional details.

Venezuelan state media reported Friday that Chavez was part of the mediation process that resulted in the release of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer on Wednesday.

Upon their release, the men were flown to Muscat, Oman, where their families greeted them with elation.

"We're so happy we are free and so relieved we are free," Fattal said. "Our deepest gratitude goes toward His Majesty Sultan Qaboos of Oman for obtaining our release. We're sincerely grateful for the government of Oman for hosting us and our families."

Bauer said, "Two years in prison is too long, and we sincerely hope for the freedom of other political prisoners and other unjustly imprisoned people in America and Iran."

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