The nightmare ended. After spending 15 months locked up in the hell of the Iranian Evin prison, Santiago Sánchez Cogedor has landed at the Barajas airport. Surrounded by his family and friends, the Spanish adventurer distributed kisses, hugs and even gifts among his companions, who carried him on their shoulders along T4 to the shouts of joy from those gathered: “Brave, brave!” .

In the midst of enormous expectation and surrounded by countless television cameras, the first thing Sánchez Cogedor did was read the farewell letter that the Iranian prisoners wrote to him, which they gave him as a diploma. The inmates became very fond of him and 500 of them blanketed him moments before leaving the prison on December 31.

«You learned to be happy with little and you shared that little with others. You taught us that you can enjoy the bad. Without money in your pockets you paid us with your smiles, time and joy. “You filled the entire prison with hope,” reads the letter that the man from Madrid read upon his arrival at Barajas airport, from Dubai.

Sánchez Cogedor sent a positive message and did not want to focus on the terrible moments he has experienced accused of espionage in the Iranian prison, one of the harshest in the world, according to Amnesty International.

At all times, he stressed that he does not intend to harbor hatred or resentment because it is something for weak and cowardly people. Although at one point, he did open up to one of his friends: “What sons of bitches! “They wanted to sentence me to death.”

The man from Madrid was excited and euphoric to finally be in his country and pointed out that his captivity had been very long and very hard: “I have been facing a possible death sentence for 15 months, which no one knows about. I ate it with potatoes, eating my fingers. The pain that I have gone through is something of mine that no one is going to take away from me. “I’m going to use that to help others.”

To the surprise of everyone present, the adventurer announced his intention to return to Iran, despite the advice of the ambassador to the country, Ángel Losada, not to do so. «You don’t have to say no to me, you have to say yes to me. People must be left free. They put barriers for me and I have to jump over them,” he said. What’s more, when they asked him what was the first thing he was going to do in Spain, Sánchez Cogedor again insisted on the idea: “Prepare a trip to Iran.”

The hiker had time to distribute gifts among his companions. For example, he gave Liberto, a 16-year-old boy, a painting of Real Madrid, while Tony was given a table made of wood from prison, which immortalizes the four friends of the gang: Coque, Guito, Santiago himself, alias Pambu, and Tony.

The journey of Santiago Sánchez, 41, began on January 8, 2022 when he left on foot from Madrid to Qatar to watch the World Cup there. His goal was to collect waste and plastics along the way and plant 2,000 trees.

His trail was lost in October when he was detained in the Kurdish city of Saqqez, while photographing the grave of activist Mahsa Amini. He had been guided there after crossing the border between Iran and Iraq by a contact he had in Iran who was an opponent of the regime.

His mother, Celia Cogedor, said that her son was deceived and that he was taken to the grave of the activist – whose death sparked a wave of protests in Iran – without knowing it.

His destination was the Tabriz prison, in the province of East Azerbaijan, where he spent more than two months until the Spanish ambassador in the country managed to locate him and he traveled with a group of GEOs the road between Tehran and Tabriz to meet for the first time with the detainee.

After these first efforts, his transfer to Tehran was achieved, where he ended up in the feared Evin prison, considered the harshest and savage prison in Iran.

According to the audios to which EL MUNDO had access, Santiago himself described his painful situation in the prison: «I was in a small room of one square meter. There was no bathroom and there was an LED light on the ceiling 24 hours a day. If I wanted to go to the bathroom I had to call the intercom: ‘Please toilet’. The guards laughed. There was a day when I literally shit myself.

Santiago’s father stated that his son has survived thanks to reading and sports, since he organized soccer and chess championships in prison.

Both parents insisted that prison conditions were horrible. «He has had very sad days in which he wanted to go on a hunger strike or had a toothache. Sometimes he had downturns and, other times, I had them,” declared Celia, his mother, who has praised the great work of ambassador Ángel Losada: “he is an extraordinary being. If it’s not for him, my son won’t go out for years. The next appointment for the judge to see him was in January 25. They have done a lot of juggling to make this exit happen,” Celia confessed, visibly excited.

Sánchez Cogedor has been in prison surrounded by diplomats, professors and university professors, imprisoned by the Iranian regime. There he has read 300 books, learned to speak Farsi, improved his English and has also taught Spanish classes. The adventurer feared for his life many times, but the story of the only Spanish prisoner in Iran has had a happy ending.