Six months since their arrest by Iranian officials, Investigative Fund reporter Shane Bauer and his two companions, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal, are still in custody in Tehran. Last summer, while Shane was based in Damascus doing reporting on the Middle East, the three took a hiking trip in the mountains of northern Iraq where they accidentally crossed an unmarked border into Iran and were arrested. In November, Iran charged the three with espionage, an absurd allegation rejected by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and every editor who's ever worked with Shane, including those of us at The Investigative Fund.
Shane's mother Cindy Hickey and Sarah's mother Nora Shourd recently spoke to Amy Goodman about their children's plight.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what is the latest, Cindy? Tell us what you have heard. The latest news we've gotten, that they're saying possibly you could meet with your sons and daughter.
CINDY HICKEY: Yes, we heard the same news through media that everyone else has, that possibly they're going to look at our visas with a good light. And we're just waiting that moment that we get official word that we can begin our travels to see our children. We haven't seen them for 200 days. We haven't heard from them. We haven't gotten one phone call. So we're anxious to see them.
AMY GOODMAN: Nora, never since they were captured, on July 31st, have you heard from Sarah or the others?
NORA SHOURD: We've had no contact at all with the three. We haven't even had a phone call, which is really, really difficult for us, not to hear our kids' voices for this long. The Swiss have been in twice. The last time the Swiss were in was October 29th, very short visit. Apparently, they appeared well, seemed healthy. But at this point, we're worried. Six months in prison has got to have a really bad effect on them. We're very worried about them.
Watch the full video here:
Shon MeckFessel, a fourth friend who had planned to join the hike but stayed behind because he was unwell, was interviewed on Democracy Now! last November. “Anyone with questions about their character can look at their writings on the internet,” he said. “And it's obvious the kind of people they are. It's obvious they're not a threat to Iran, so I just don't understand why they're being held.”
The families and friends of the hikers have created a website freethehikers.org, with a petition to free the three Americans, video pleas from their mothers to the Iranian authorities, and testimonials by the hikers' loved ones.
A few weeks ago Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad floated the idea of a prisoner exchange, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton summarily rejected. But such swaps with enemy countries are hardly unprecedented. The United States conducted prisoner exchanges during the Cold War, for example, in order to free dissidents from Russia, Poland, and East Germany.
All of us at The Investigative Fund hope that Shane, Sarah, and Josh are released soon. As of the time of this posting, they have been in custody for 211 days.