Tags: Tehran | hikers | mothers | freedom

Mothers Meet US Hikers in Tehran

Thursday, 20 May 2010 10:01 AM

TEHRAN — The mothers of three US hikers held in Iran for 10 months amid spy accusations called for their release as a "humanitarian gesture" after an emotional reunion with their children on Thursday.

"We have requested their freedom but I don't know what will happen," Shane Bauer's mother, Cindy Hickey, told reporters after the teary-eyed meeting in a Tehran hotel.

"Please, please let them go," she pleaded. "It would be a good gesture for the world to see Iran doing a humanitarian" act.

Hickey said she and the the other mothers had yet to receive a response to their request for a meeting with Iranian officials to put their case.

After the two-hour meeting, Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, addressed reporters alongside their mothers, their hands around one another.

They said they had been well treated while in custody but Shourd complained that "being alone is difficult."

"They are together but I'm alone," she said referring to her male fellow detainees.

"We have good food and good medical attention and we have reading material," she added. "Receiving letters has been also good."

Bauer told reporters: "I have good relations with the guards. We have good books to read." Fattal said "I'm very happy to see my mom again."

The three were dressed in jeans and T-shirts, with Shourd also wearing a maroon headscarf, in conformity with the Islamic dress code in force for women in Iran regardless of their religion or nationality.

The mothers, who arrived on Wednesday dressed in enveloping Arabian-style abayas, appeared in brightly coloured loose headscarves in the visit brokered by the Swiss embassy which protects US interests in Iran in the absence of diplomatic ties.

Iran has given no official indication it is preparing to release the three, although the visit itself was seen as a breakthrough.

The three young Americans were detained on July 31 after crossing Iran's border while on a hiking trip in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region.

Washington insists they are innocent and should be released, stressing that the three hikers had strayed in error across an unmarked border in a remote mountainous area.

But on Wednesday, Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi renewed accusations of espionage against them.

"Despite their being spies and entering Iran illegally, they were dealt with according to religious teachings and in a humanitarian way" Moslehi said.

Moslehi first made the allegation that the trio were spies in April when he said Iran had "compelling evidence that three Americans were cooperating with intelligence services."

In March, Tehran public prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said the three faced espionage charges. But last December, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said they were accused of entering the country illegally.

The mothers were excited and emotional as they left the United States on Tuesday, after having been granted one-week visas last week.

In their baggage they had packed letters from friends, photographs and empty notebooks for the detainees to record their experiences.

Ties between Tehran and Washington have been poisoned for decades, with tensions now focused on the Islamic republic's controversial nuclear programme. Western governments suspect it is cover for a drive for an atomic weapon.

Iran strongly denies the charge but this week the United States circulated a draft sanctions resolution at the UN Security Council despite a compromise deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey in a bid to avert fresh punitive action.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved

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TEHRAN — The mothers of three US hikers held in Iran for 10 months amid spy accusations called for their release as a "humanitarian gesture" after an emotional reunion with their children on Thursday.
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2010-01-20
Thursday, 20 May 2010 10:01 AM
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