U.S. mothers visit Iran detainees, plead for release

TEHRAN (BestGrowthStock) – The mothers of three Americans jailed in Iran since last July were allowed to see them on Thursday and pleaded with the government to set them free.

Wearing the headscarves required under Iran’s Islamic dress code, the mothers held the hands of their offspring during a meeting in a hotel in Tehran where they spoke to reporters.

Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, were arrested on suspicion of spying after they entered Iran. They say they strayed over the border while hiking in northern Iraq.

The arrests further complicated relations between Tehran and Washington which are facing off over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“All we can do is ask the Iranian government: please, please, please listen to us, we love our children so much. We want them out and they haven’t harmed anyone,” Nora Shourd told reporters, her voice cracking with emotion.

On the sofa next to her, her daughter Sarah nuzzled her mother’s face as she fought back tears.

Looking healthy, the detainees said they had not seen a lawyer during their detention in Tehran’s notorious Evin jail, but had not been mistreated.

“We don’t understand why we’ve been kept here. We thought we would be here a matter of days and it’s been nine and half months. In my wildest dream I never thought I would still be in prison,” said Sarah.

They said they had not been formally charged and had not been given any indication of what would happen to them next.

TENSIONS

The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran and tension between the two states has increased as Washington has sought new U.N. sanctions to the uranium enrichment program which it fears could eventually lead to an Iranian atomic bomb.

When asked what they hoped their government could do, Bauer replied: “We don’t really know much about what’s going on outside prison. “We hope that Iran can continue with humanitarian gestures — like letting our mothers come — by releasing us on humanitarian grounds.”

There was no immediate indication from the Iranian authorities they would release the detainees or charge them.

In a separate case, a French teacher who was arrested on spying charges in July was sent home last Sunday.

Media have speculated Clotilde Reiss may have benefited from a prisoner exchange deal as an Iranian, jailed in France for killing a former Iranian prime minister, was freed two days later. France has denied there was any such deal.

Iranian reporters asked the American detainees what they thought about Iranian prisoners being held in U.S. jails — a subject often mentioned in Iranian media, although usually without specifying who they are referring to.

“We really feel very sympathetic for any Iranian prisoners that are being kept in the United States,” said Nora Shourd. “But we’re not politicians, we don’t have the power to change this. We wish we did.”

In December, a diplomatic row was avoided when Iran released five British yachtsmen whose boat has strayed into Iranian territory while sailing in the Gulf.

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(Writing by Robin Pomeroy; editing by Matthew Jones)

U.S. mothers visit Iran detainees, plead for release