American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, back home in the U.S. after being detained for two years in Iran, have claimed they often heard other prisoners being beaten during their two-year detention in the Middle Eastern country.
"Many times, too many times, we heard the screams of other prisoners being beaten," said Fattal, who related the drastic measures he and Bauer had to take in order to stay in touch with family in the U.S.
"We had to go on hunger strike repeatedly just to receive letters from our loved ones," he said.
The two men said they were held in isolation for most of their stay in prison and allowed just 15 minutes total phone time with their families.
Fattal and Bauer, both 29, appeared at a Manhattan hotel a few hours after landing at John F. Kennedy Airport on Sunday, ending a diplomatic ordeal that began when they strayed into Iranian territory in 2009 while hiking in northern Iraq.
Appearing with them were relatives as well as travel companion Sarah Shourd, who was arrested at the same time as the two men, but was released in September 2010 due to health concerns. Shourd is now engaged to Bauer, who had proposed to her while they were in prison.
"Releasing us is a good gesture, and no positive step should go unnoticed. We applaud the Iranian authorities for finally making the right decision regarding our case," said Fattal.
"But we want to be clear that they do not deserve undue credit for ending what they had no right and no justification to start in the first place," he asserted.
Bauer spoke of the irony of his and his travel companions' incarceration in light of their prior disagreement with U.S. policies toward Iran; he did not elaborate on the nature of the disagreement.
To questions concerning their ability to forgive Iran for more than two years of imprisonment, Bauer said: "How can we forgive the Iranian government when it continues to imprison so many other innocent people and prisoners of conscience?"