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Free the Hikers Update

New America Media, News report, Mary Ambrose Posted: Feb 18, 2010

The secretary general of Iran's High Council for Human Rights, Mohammad Javad Larijani is considering allowing the families of the imprisoned hikers to visit them, according to Associated Press.

The Swiss ambassador proposed this a few weeks ago and Larijani told reporters in Geneva that he supported the idea. "We have recommended that the families should be able to see them, and I hope that this will be done," adding that his office is
working on it with the security people and judges."

Staff members from the Swiss embassy have been the only outsiders to see Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal since they were captured in July after erroneously crossing the Iranian border. The last time they visited the hikers was October, though Larijani insisted that at that time the Swiss consular staff had full access.

The families of the hikers are quietly optimistic that they may soon see their loved ones. On Tuesday, Bauer's mother, Cindy Hickey of Pine City, Minnesota, described the families worries to The Associated Press.

"We don't know if they're getting outside," Bauer said. "There's just so many questions in our heads. ... The nights (for us) are really long with no sleep, little sleep, many nightmares."

Hickey noted that it's been some 200 days since the families have talked to the three. "We want a phone call which we've never gotten," she said. "As a mother I'm very anxious to put my arms around Shane and let him know that we're doing all we can."

Asked about the issue during a news conference Tuesday, AP reports that Ahmadinejad repeated his view that the release of the Americans is in the hands of the judiciary.

"We are eager to see them released but it depends on the crime they have committed and the judge's verdict," he said, adding as he has in the past - that he hoped several Iranians held in U.S. jails would also be freed.

The light in the darkness came from Larijani who admitted at the press conference that although it was "quite possible" the Americans had strayed into Iran erroneously, that had to be confirmed "the security people want to be sure this is true" because the area they were in was known for "terrorist activities."

"We should assume that they are innocent," he added.

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