The mothers of two American hikers who have been held in Iran for more than a year said they have asked to meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while he is in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
Laura Fattal, the mother of jailed hiker Josh Fattal, and Cindy Hickey, the mother of Shane Bauer, said they have haven’t heard whether Ahmadinejad is willing to meet with them to discuss their sons, who have been held in Tehran after being captured last year when they crossed into Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan.
The women appeared at a press conference today in Manhattan with Bauer’s fiancee, Sarah Shourd, who was released from custody on Sept. 14 and arrived in the U.S. today. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton two days ago urged Iran to make a “very significant humanitarian gesture” and release Bauer and Fattal.
“The humanity of our plea, being face to face with human beings, talking to each other face to face and the high regard for motherhood in Iran, I think all of these things can work in our favor,” Laura Fattal said. “I look forward very very much to having the opportunity.”
Ahmadinejad said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” program that Shourd’s release was “a huge humanitarian gesture” and that the two Americans still in custody “violated” Iranian law. Ahmadinejad said eight Iranians who have been “illegally arrested” in the U.S. should be set free as a “humanitarian gesture.”
Thanks to Iran
Shourd, reading from a statement, thanked “the government and religious leaders of Iran” and singled out Ahmadinejad and Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for her “compassionate release from detention.”
The three hikers are not spies and had “no knowledge” of their proximity to the Iranian border with Iraq when they went hiking behind the Ahmed Awa waterfall, said Shourd, who urged Americans and Iranians to use the opportunity to “make the world a little safer for everyone through peace and dialogue.”
“I believe that our tragedy is an opportunity for Americans and Iranians to realize that an improved relationship would be in the best interest of all people,” said Shourd, who declined to take questions. “My hope is that, in our own small way, Shane, Josh and I as individuals can help begin to build a bridge between our two disparate countries and cultures.”
The Iranian mission to the UN in New York didn’t immediately respond to voice-mail message seeking comment.