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September 22, 2011 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2011-09-22

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6A - Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Americans freed from
Iran prison head home

People hold signs as they gather on a street in Lower Manhattan Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, during a rally by the American Freedom Defense
Initiative, which opposes the planned Islamic cultural center and mosque near ground zero. Earlier that Sunday there was a ceremony at
the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site for the 10th anniversary of the attacks on Sept.11, 2001.
Islamic cultural center
opens near groundzero

Hikers spent two
years in custody,
released under
$1 million bail
MUSCAT, Oman (AP) -
After more than two years in
Iranian custody, two Ameri-
cans convicted as spies took
their firststeps toward home
today as they bounded down
from a private jet and into
the arms of family for a joy-
ful reunion in the Gulf state
of Oman.
The families called this
"the best day of our lives,"
and President Barack Obama
said their release - under a
$1 million bail-for-freedom
deal - "wonderful news."
The release capped com-
plicated diplomatic maneu-
vers over a week of confusing
signals by Iran's leadership
on the fate of Josh Fattal and
Shane Bauer.
Although the fate of the
two gripped America, it
was on the periphery of the
larger showdowns between
Washington and Tehran
that include Iran's nuclear
program and its ambitions
to widen military and politi-
cal influence in the Middle
East and beyond. But - for a
moment at least - U.S. offi-
cials maybe adding words of
thanks in addition to their
calls for alarm over Iran.
For Tehran, it was a
chance to court some good-
will after sending a message
of defiance with hard-line
justice in the July 2009
arrests of the Americans
along the Iran-Iraq bor-
der. The Americans always
maintained they were inno-
cent hikers.

"Today can only be
described as the best day
of our lives," said a state-
ment from their families.
"We have waited for nearly
26 months for this moment
and the joy and relief we feel
at Shane and Josh's long-
awaited freedom knows no
"We now all want noth-
ing more than to wrap Shane
and Josh in our arms, catch
up on two lost years and
make a new beginning, for
them and for all of us," the
statement added.
Obama called it "wonder-
ful, wonderful news about
the hikers, we are thrilled ...
It's a wonderful day for them
and for us."
U.N. Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon welcomed the
hikers' release, saying he
"appreciates the decision
to respond to international
appeals on humanitarian
grounds," said spokesman
Martin Nesirky. "He com-
mends all parties who helped
to secure their release."
The release came on
the eve of Iranian Presi-
dent Mahmoud Ahmadine-
jad's previously scheduled
address Thursday to the
U.N. General Assembly's
annual ministerial meeting.
The families waited on
the tarmac at a royal airfield
near the main international
airport in Oman's capital,
Muscat. Also returning to
Oman was Sarah Shourd,
who was arrested with
Bauer and Fattal but freed
a year ago. She received a
marriage proposal from
Bauer while in prison.
At about 20 minutes before
midnight, Fattal and Bauer
- wearing jeans and casual
shirts - raced down the steps

from the blue-and-white
plane. They made no state-
ments to reporters before
walking into the airport ter-
minal building, which was
guarded by security officials.
The men appeared thin, but
in good health.
"We're so happy we are
free," Fattal told reporters
in Oman. The two men made
brief statements before leav-
ing the airport with their
"Two years in prison is
too long," Bauer said, and
hoped their release from
prison will also bring "free-
dom for political prisoners
in America and Iran."
In many ways, the release
was a mirror image of the
scene last year when Shourd
was freed on $500,000 bail.
That deal, too, was medi-
ated by Oman, an Arabian
peninsula sultanate with
close ties to both Tehran and
Washington. A statement
from Oman said it hoped the
release would lead to better
ties between Iran and the U.S.
The gray metal gates of
Tehran's Evin prison finally
opened for Shourd - as it
did for her companions on 6
Wednesday - as Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahma-
dinejad was preparing for
the spotlight in New York at
the U.N.'s annual gathering
of world leaders last year. He
is scheduled to address the
world body again today.
Just a month ago, Bauer
and Fattal - both 29 - were
appealing their eight-year
prison terms for espionage
and illegal entry into Iran.
They denied the charges and
said they were merely hikers
in Iraq's relatively peaceful
Kurdistan region who wan-
dered close to Iran's border.

Center will have 9/11
memorial, be open
to all religions
NEW YORK (AP) - The developer
of an Islamic cultural center that
opened last night near the site of
the terrorist attacks that leveled the
World Trade Center says the biggest
error on the project was not involv-
ing the families of 9/11 victims from
the start.
People crowded into the center,
where a small orchestra played tra-
ditional Middle Eastern instruments
and a photo exhibit of New York chil-
dren of different ethnicities lined the
walls. The enthusiasm at the opening
belied its troubled beginnings.
"We made incredible mistakes,"
Sharif El-Gamal told The Associ-
ated Press in an earlier interview at

his Manhattan office.
The building at 51 Park Place, two
blocks from the World Trade Center
site, includes a Muslim prayer space
that has been open for two years.
El-Gamal said the overall center is
modeled after the Jewish Commu-
nity Center on Manhattan's Upper
West Side, where he lives.
"I wanted my daughter to learn
how to swim, so I took her to the
JCC," said the Brooklyn-born Mus-
lim. "And when I walked in, I said,
'Wow. This is great."'
The project has drawn criticism
from opponents who say they don't
want a mosque near the site of the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The center is open to all faiths
and will include a 9/11 memorial,
El-Gamal said. He called opposition
to the center - which prompted one
of the most virulent national discus-
sions about Islam and freedom of

speech and religion since Sept. 11
- part of a "campaign against Mus-
Last year, street clashes in view of
the trade center site pitted support-
ers against opponents of the center.
When the center was first envi-
sioned several years ago, activist
Daisy Khan and her husband, Imam
Feisal Abdul Rauf, played a major,
vocal role. But they soon left the proj-
ect because of differences with the
El-Gamal, 38, confirmed yester-
day that they parted ways because
"we had a different vision." He
declined to elaborate.
The couple said they had dis-
cussed plans for Park51, as the cen-
ter is known, with relatives of 9/11
victims, first responders and oth-
ers, including the possibility that
it could become a multifaith center
focusing on religious conflict.

Typhoon passes
Japan tsunami zone,
leaves plant intact

RELEASE DATE- Thursday, September 22, 2011
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Edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis
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Roke kills 16, stops
commuter trains
in capital
TOKYO (AP) - A powerful
typhoon headed north today
after dumping heavy rains on
Japan's tsunami-devastated
coastline, paralyzing commuter
trains in the capital, and leav-
ing at least 16 people dead or
missing across the country.
There hadbeen concerns that
Typhoon Roke could pose more
problems for the Fukushima
Dai-ichi nuclear power plant,
which was sent into meltdown
by the March 11 earthquake
and tsunami, but officials said
the plant weathered the storm
without major incident.
Hiroki Kawamata, spokes-
man for plant operator Tokyo
Electric Power Co., said several
cameras set up to monitor the
plant were damaged, but there
had been no further leaks of
radioactive water or material
into the environment.
"We are seeing no problems
so far," he said.
The typhoon had reached
the country's northern island of
Hokkaido by Thursday morn-
ing after weakening overnight,
but there were no immediate
reports of damage there. The
storm was still packing sus-
tained winds of up to 78 mph
(126 kph).
The typhoon made landfall
Wednesday afternoon near the
city of Hamamatsu, about 125
miles (200 kilometers) west of
Tokyo, and then cut a path to
the northeast and through the
capital before bringing new
misery to the tsunami zone. It
dumped up to 17 inches (42 cen-
timeters) of rain in some areas,
triggering landslides and flood-
Police and local media
reported 16 people dead or
missing, most swept away by
rivers swollen with rains in the
southern and central regions.
One person died in a landslide
in northern Iwate prefecture

and two people were swept
away in Sendai in the northeast.
Hundreds of tsunami survi-
vors in government shelters in
the Miyagi state town of Ona-
gawa were forced to evacuate
for fear of flooding.
Strong winds snapped power
lines in many areas, and offi-
cials said more than 200,000
households in central Japan
were without electricity late
Overnight in Tokyo, where
many rush hour trains were
suspended for hours, thousands
of commuters got stuck at sta-
tions across the sprawling city
and stood in long lines for buses
and cabs.
"The hotels in the vicinity are
all booked up, so I'm waiting
for the bullet train to restart,"
Hiromu Harada, a 60-year-old
businessman, said at Tokyo Sta-
Kyodo said 5,000 people
stayed overnight inside Shink-
ansen bullet trains at Tokyo and
Shizuoka stations.
Fire department officials
reported three people injured
in Tokyo. In the trendy shop-
ping district of Shibuya, winds
knocked a tree onto a sidewalk,
but no one was hurt. Pedestri-
ans struggled to walk straight
in powerful winds that made
umbrellas useless.
The storm had set off land-
slides in parts of Miyagi that
already were hit by the March
disasters. The local government
requested the help of defense
troops, and dozens of schools
canceled classes.
A magnitude-5.3 earthquake
struck late Wednesday just
south of Fukushima in Ibaraki
state. Officials said the temblor
posed no danger to the Fuku-
shima Dai-ichi plant, and that
it did not cause any damage or
injuries in the region.
Heavy rains prompted floods
and caused road damage earlier
in dozens of locations in Nagoya
and several other cities, the
Aichi prefectural government
said. More than 200 domestic
flights were canceled.


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