Published: May 20, 2010 1:17 PM EDT
Updated: May 20, 2010 1:17 PM EDT

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Three Americans jailed in Iran for 10 months

hugged and kissed their mothers in an emotional reunion Thursday

after the women arrived on a mission to secure the release of their

children. One of the prisoners said they all hoped to go home

together in the trio's first public comments since their arrest.

Nora Shourd, Cindy Hickey and Laura Fattal threw their arms in

the air and rushed to embrace their children as they entered the

room at the Esteghlal Hotel in north Tehran, in footage aired on

Iran's state-run Press TV.

They hugged the three and kissed them on the cheeks as they

embraced, some rocking back and forth together with tears in their

eyes. The group later ate lunch together at a feast of rice, kebabs

and other traditional Middle Eastern dishes.

Iran detained the three Americans - Sarah Shourd, 31; her

boyfriend, Shane Bauer, 27; and their friend Josh Fattal, 27 -

along the Iraqi border in late July and have accused them of

entering from Iraqi territory and spying. Their relatives reject

the accusation and say the three were hiking in Iraq's scenic and

largely peaceful northern Kurdish region.

The mothers, who were wearing long black robes and holding

bouquets of flowers during the meeting, arrived in Tehran on

Wednesday to visit their children and try to secure the their


Iran granted the women visas to visit their children in what it

said was an Islamic humanitarian gesture and the Americans appealed

to them to release the three on the same grounds.

"We hope we're going home soon, maybe with our mothers," Josh

Fattal said as the group was interviewed while seated together on a

low-slung couch afterward.

Relatives have had little news on the three Americans since

their arrest, and their mothers were eager to talk with them and

gauge where their health stands after some 10 months in captivity

in Iran's Evin prison.

Their lawyer Masoud Shafii said the six would stay together at

least until evening, but it was not clear whether the three

detainees would have to return to the prison for the night.

The mothers are hoping to meet with officials involved in the

case, and ideally with top Iranian leaders, including President

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who

has the final say in all state matters, the lawyer has said.

Sarah Shourd said it has been "terrible to be away from our

families for this long."

"We've only received one phone call and it was five minutes

long and that was amazing - we waited and prayed for that every

day," she said. "This (the meeting) is something obviously we've

been praying for and it makes a huge difference."

She said the their treatment by the Iranian authorities has been

"decent" and loneliness has been the hardest part of her


"Shane and Josh are in a room together but I'm alone and that's

the most difficult thing for me," she said. She added that she's

allowed to see Bauer and Fattal twice a day.

Hickey, the mother of Shane Bauer, said the parents are "very

grateful to the Islamic Republic of Iran and the authorities for

granting us a visa" to visit their children.

"We know that this is a great humanitarian act that they have

given to us. Our reception was wonderful when we came into Iran,"

she said in comments aired on English-language Press TV.

Nora Shourd has said she is especially worried about the effect

that near-solitary confinement may be having on her always social

daughter. Swiss diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in Iran,

have reported that Sarah was suffering a serious gynecological

condition, while Bauer had a stomach ailment.

On Thursday, Iran's intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi,

defended the treatment of the Americans during their detention.

"We have treated the U.S. nationals according to our religious

principles and on humanitarian grounds, even though these

individuals committed an act of espionage by illegally crossing the

border into Iran," Moslehi was quoted as saying by Press TV.

Although the Americans have not been publicly charged, Shafii

has left open the possibility of a resolution outside of usual

legal channels, saying "anything is possible."

The case could face complications from Iran's diplomatic

showdown with the U.S. and its allies. Just before the mothers'

arrival in Tehran, the United States said it had won support from

other major powers for a new set of sanctions against Iran over its

disputed nuclear program.

The U.S., which has not had formal diplomatic relations with

Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and its allies accuse

Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program

is for peaceful purposes.

In recent years, a number of foreigners held by Iranian

authorities on espionage and other security-related charges have

been released following months of detention.

Last week, Iran freed French academic Clotilde Reiss, 24, after

more than 10 months in jail. She was convicted of provoking unrest

and spying during unrest that broke out after June's disputed

presidential elections.

An Iranian-American journalist, Roxana Saberi, who was arrested

in January 2009, convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight

years in prison, was released on an appeal in May 2009.

Hickey lives in Minnesota, Shourd is from Oakland, California,

and Fattal is from suburban Philadelphia.

Appearing on ABC's "Good Morning America," Josh Fattal's

brother, Alex, watched as footage of the reunion was shown.

"That image of my mom hugging him is unbelievable," he said.

"We've waited a long time for an image like that."

Alex Fattal said he hopes Iran will continue its "humanitarian

spirit" and let the three return home.

"We're always optimistic," he said. "We know that Shane, Josh

and Sarah are innocent and we hope they'll be released. And what

better time than to release them to their mothers right now?"