Clinton: U.S. Won't Engage in Swap for Detained UC Berkeley Grads

Bay City News
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 12:59:00 PM

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has ruled out Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s suggestion that three American hikers detained by his country be swapped for Iranian citizens held in the United States. 

Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31 and Josh Fattal, 27, who all graduated from UC Berkeley, have been held in Iran since July 31. Their family members and friends say they were detained after they mistakenly crossed an unmarked border into Iran while hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan. 

But Iran officials have threatened to prosecute them on espionage charges. 

Speaking in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Clinton said, “It is hard to know what the Iranian president meant from these press reports of his comments” about a possible exchange of prisoners. 

“As we have said repeatedly, we call on Iran to release all the American citizens that they have currently detained,” Clinton said. “We believe they are being unjustly detained and they should be released without further delay.” 

Clinton said, “There are no negotiations taking place between the United States and Iran. We believe they should unilaterally release our detained citizens.” 

Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley said in a separate briefing on Wednesday, “There’s not really an equivalence, if you will, between an Iranian citizen who has been indicted and/or convicted of arms trafficking in violation of international law and three hikers who wandered across an unmarked border. So I think we’re not interested in a swap, per se.” 

Nora Shourd of Oakland, the mother of Sarah Shourd, said today that she and the mothers of Bauer and Fattal have applied to Iran to get visas so they can plead in person to have their children released. 

She said the hikers haven’t been seen by any friendly parties since Oct. 29, when they were visited by Swiss diplomats. 

Swiss diplomats have acted as intermediaries for the United States because the United States doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Iran. 

Shourd said Swiss officials have asked to meet with the hikers again but that their requests have been “stonewalled” by Iran. 

She said the parents of the hikers hired a high-profile Iranian lawyer on Dec. 27 to try to get them released but Iranian officials also have declined to meet with him. 

As for the possibility that the hikers could be exchanged for Iranian prisoners being held in the United States, Shourd said, “We try not to react to every report. It doesn’t further us.” 

“We have his (Ahmadinejad’s) attention and are hoping that there will be some movement on their case,” she said.