By DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Two American hikers held for more than two years in an Iranian prison thanked U.S. senators on Wednesday for their help in pressing for their release.
Joined by family members who never stopped smiling, Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Al Franken, D-Minn., to express their gratitude for their work.
Fattal and Bauer later met privately with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
"These families were remarkable throughout this whole thing," Franken said during a meeting at Casey's office. "They stuck together. They brought an incredible amount of intelligence and creativity. They had to exercise a lot of strength at times."
The session was marked by laughter about racing off planes and being smothered by a parent's hugs.
Fattal, an environmental activist from Elkins Park, Pa., said his mother wrote to him about Casey visiting his suburban Philadelphia home.
"I learned of his tireless effort reaching out to foreign embassies and raising our case abroad ... and I'm very grateful to Senator Casey for this," Fattal said.
Bauer, a freelance journalist who grew up in Onamia, Minn., Fattal and Sarah Shourd were arrested by Iranian soldiers in July 2009 as they were hiking near the Iraq-Iran border. Shourd was released after 14 months; Bauer and Fattal were held in an Iranian prison for more than two years.
Iran accused them of being spies. They three said they were innocent and had gotten lost while hiking.
Fattal and Bauer were freed on bail on Sept. 21.
Franken commented on the remarkable turnaround for Shourd, who has been living in Oakland, Calif., since her release. She is engaged to Bauer.
"Sarah, when we saw you a year ago, you were a different person," Franken said. "It's so nice to see you this happy. You were a little stressed. We're just thrilled."
WATCH Related Video: