There was a flurry of press coverage and official U.S. government statements following Friday's news that Swiss diplomats were able to visit Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal in their Iranian prison cells recently. The latest concern: Bauer has a stomach ailment and Shourd has a serious gynecological condition and is battling depression.
Bauer, 27, is a freelance journalist and Minnesota native. His mother, Cindy Hickey, lives in Pine City. He, Shourd, 31, and Fattal, 27, were detained by Iranian authorities last July while hiking on the Iran side of its border with Iraq. They're accused of being spies.
"We understand that they have spoken about starting a hunger strike because they are in such despair at the total lack of movement in their case," the families of the three said in a statement. "We are painfully aware of the tensions between the governments of the United States and Iran, but it is wrong to make innocent citizens pay the price."
The official White House statement:
The United States remains deeply concerned by the case of three American hikers, Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, and Sarah Shourd, who have been detained in Iran without charge or access to legal representation since July 2009. While we welcome the decision by the Iranian authorities to allow Shane, Sarah and Josh to receive another Swiss consular visit at long last, we were deeply alarmed to learn from the families today of their physical and emotional state of health. We fear their well-being will suffer even more unless their case is resolved without delay. We strongly believe these urgent developments are additional reasons for the government of Iran to release them immediately.
These three innocent Americans have been in detention in Iran for almost nine months without formal charges or access to legal representation as stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. There is absolutely no justification for their detention, and they should be released without further delay.
As always, we urgently call on the Islamic Republic of Iran to resolve the cases of all missing and detained American citizens in Iran, including Robert Levinson who has been missing in Iran since March 2007.
Official statement from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton:
I was pleased to learn of the consular visit yesterday by the Swiss Ambassador in Iran to the three detained American hikers, Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, and Sarah Shourd. But we are disturbed by the families' reports of their children's physical and emotional health. These three Americans -- innocent tourists in Iraq's Kurdistan region when they were detained on July 31, 2009 -- have been unjustly held for almost nine months without formal charges or access to legal representation. We ask the Islamic Republic of Iran to release these three Americans and allow them to go home and be reunited with their families.
Bauer is based in the Middle East. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Christian Science Monitor, The Nation, Slate.com, Aljazeera.net, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, Democracy Now! and other news outlets.