3 Americans now held in Iran for half of a year
Published: Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 12:58 a.m.
MINNEAPOLIS — It's been six months since three young Americans were taken into custody in Iran, and the mother of one said even hiring an attorney in Iran has brought no new information on how they are doing.
"It's like there's this brick wall in front of us, and we can't get through," Cindy Hickey, the mother of Shane Bauer, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "The concern for me as a mother is how this has to be taking a toll on them psychologically, and I would like someone to see them physically to tell me that they're in OK health."
Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were hiking in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region in July when they accidentally crossed the border, their families have said. All three are graduates of the University of California at Berkeley.
Iran's foreign minister said in late December that the three would be tried in court, but he did not say when a trial would begin or what the three would be charged with other than to say they had "suspicious aims." Earlier, the country's chief prosecutor said they were accused of spying.
Their families say that's ludicrous and last month hired an Iranian attorney to press the case. But Hickey, who lives near Pine City, Minn., said the attorney, Masoud Shafie, has been denied visits with the three and hasn't received any information on charges.
"He's being told it's not time, it's not time," Hickey said. "We don't understand this lack of movement."
The last time anyone sympathetic saw the three was at the end of October, when Swiss diplomats were granted a short visit. The U.S. has no diplomatic relationship with Iran and is represented in such matters by the Swiss. At the time, the diplomats said the three were in good health.
Their jailing comes amid continued tension between the U.S. and Iran over that nation's nuclear program.
It also parallels in some ways the captivity of Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American who grew up in Fargo, N.D., and like Bauer, worked as a freelance journalist. Saberi was jailed in Iran in February 2009, tried and convicted of espionage — but then released to return to the U.S. after about four months.
"I knew this wasn't going to be done overnight," Hickey said. "But I never dreamed we'd be in the same place six months later."
The hikers have family in California, Colorado, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.
The families issued a joint written statement Saturday urging Iran to release their relatives.
"If the Iranian judiciary has concluded that Shane, Sarah and Josh entered Iran without proper documentation, then surely six months in prison is sufficient punishment for any violation of regulations that may have occurred," the families said.