Report says detained hikers weren't in Iran
MINNEAPOLIS — The mothers of three American hikers held in Iran on suspicion of espionage said yesterday that they hope a report that their children’s arrest last year took place on the Iraqi side of the border will help lead to their release.
Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal were arrested July 31 during what their families have said was a simple hiking trip along the Iraq-Iran border. They have said if the hikers crossed into Iran it was an accident.
The Nation reported yesterday that two witnesses from a Kurdish village near the border say the Americans were on Iraqi soil when they were arrested by Iranian forces. The publication said the witnesses would not allow their names to be used for fear of retaliation from Iran.
An Iraqi border security official contradicted the account, saying the hikers were arrested on Iranian soil.
“What it does for me is it pushes me into the hope that the Iranian authorities can investigate this, see it for what it is, and release them immediately,’’ Cindy Hickey, Shane Bauer’s mother, said in an interview.
Iraqi border police Brigadier General Ahmed Gharib said that the three Americans passed through Zalem, a village near the border, on the way to climbing a mountain — the peak of which he said is in Iran.
“The three Americans were arrested inside Iranian territory,’’ said Gharib, who is based in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah.
Laura Fattal, Josh’s mother, said she didn’t know what to make of Gharib’s remarks. She said she was grateful that the magazine’s report had put the hikers back in the news.
“If this helps gain their release, it’s wonderful,’’ she said.