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
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?"