According to reports first published by Reuters, actor Sean Penn played a part in the release of two American hikers held for two years in an Iranian prison as accused spies.
Penn's people confirmed the report. The Oscar-winning actor flew to Venezuela several months ago to talk to President Hugo Chavez about the hikers. Chavez—in addition to being a harsh critic of the United States—is an ally of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Reuters quotes Venezuela's deputy foreign minister as saying that Chavez got involved after learning about the case from "friends in U.S. 'intellectual circles.'" The official also confirms that the intellectual in question was Penn.
Penn—who is well know for his political and social advocacy work—wouldn't offer further details on his role in the hikers' release.