The three UC Berkeley graduates who were detained in Iran last July were allowed to call home March 9 for the first time in more than seven months.
A press release posted on the website www.freethehikers.org Wednesday said their families welcomed the positive sign and are hopeful that their loved ones will be released for the Iranian New Year.
Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were hiking in Kurdish Iraq when they reportedly stepped across the border into neighboring Iran. Their families maintain that it was an accident but Iranian authorities have charged them with espionage.
“It was a tremendous relief to hear their voices at last and know that Shane, Sarah and Josh are keeping well and staying strong,” the families said in a statement. “They still don’t have any details about their case but they are aware of some of what we and others are doing to speed their release. We believe the calls are a positive signal that their long detention may soon be over after these many months of anguish and uncertainty. As families throughout Iran prepare to celebrate the festival of Nowruz, the start of the Iranian New Year, we appeal to the Iranian authorities to show compassion and allow our families to be reunited in joy and happiness as well.”
According to the families, Shane and Josh, both 27, are being held in the same cell in Evin Prison in Tehran. Sarah, 31, is alone in her cell but is able to meet with Shane and Josh every day.
The three friends were detained on July 31, 2009 while on vacation in Iraq.
Their mothers, Cindy Hickey, Nora Shourd and Laura Fattal, applied for visas on Jan. 6 to visit them in prison but still don’t know the status.
The hikers’ lawyer, Masoud Shafii, is continuing to press for access to his clients.
“We would like to thank Mr. Shafii for his persistent efforts on behalf of Shane, Sarah and Josh and his repeated requests to the Iranian authorities to allow them to telephone us,” the families said. “These phone calls make us long to embrace them even more. They have been held for far too long and it’s time for them to come home.”