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200 Days After They Went Missing, Mothers of Jailed U.S. Hikers Urge Iran to Release Their Children

"We've had no contact at all ... We haven't even had a phone call."

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today with an update on the three Americans who have been held in Iran for over six months. Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were detained on July 31st after accidentally crossing into Iran while hiking in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. The three are in Iran's notorious Evin prison.

It's been more than 200 days since the families of the detained Americans have had any contact with them. Their last consular visit from Swiss diplomats who represent American interests in Iran was in late October, and the Iranian lawyer their families asked to represent them has also been refused access. In November, Iran's judiciary announced espionage charges against the three.

But this Tuesday brought a glimmer of hope when Iran's top human rights official told journalists in Geneva he's considering a request by the families of the three hikers to visit them in prison. Mohammad Javad Larijani said the Iranian Council for Human Rights had recommended the detained Americans be allowed family visits.

The mothers of the hikers have sent a letter to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday urging him to allow them to visit their children in prison and help secure their release. They quoted the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who issued an appeal on their behalf last month. He wrote, "It is difficult to escape the conclusion that [Shane, Sarah and Josh] continue to be held because they are Americans and not for any legal reason. I urge the Iranian authorities not to deny them their freedom in order to express their discontent with the United States. Nations have a right to disagree but their citizens should not be made to pay the price of their differences," he wrote.

Well, now I'm joined by two of the moms, the mothers of Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, two of the three Americans detained in Iran. Shane Bauer is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in The Nation , Pacific News Service, and we played a report of his on Democracy Now! Sarah Shourd is a teacher and writer. She was living in Damascus, Syria with Shane last summer. Cindy Hickey and Nora Shourd are our guests today.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

CINDY HICKEY: Thank you, Amy.

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.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell me about your children. Tell me about Shane. Shane, we did -- when he was out, when he was a freelance journalist, we played a piece of his. But tell us who Shane is. Cindy.