Clutching flowers, American mothers visit detained US hikers in Iran
Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal were briefly let out of Evin prison to visit their mothers in a Tehran hotel. The mothers want to bring their children home, but Iran may be waiting for a prisoner swap with the US.
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No indication of an imminent release
Iranian officials have given no indication that the three detainees will be released.Skip to next paragraph
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On Wednesday, Iran’s Minister of Interior Heydar Moslehi said the mothers were granted week-long visas because Iran “acted in accordance with Islamic teachings and in a humanitarian way.” But he also renewed espionage charges, saying on Wednesday the three were “spies” who had entered Iran “illegally.”
In recent months, Iranian officials have said they have “compelling evidence” that the three Americans were “cooperating with intelligence services” – accusations denied by the families and the US government.
An Iranian lawyer representing the Americans said “anything is possible” to resolve the issue. “It doesn’t have the feel of a normal court case,” Masoud Shafii said, according to the Associated Press.
Speculation Iran seeks prisoner swap
During the press conference, the American detainees said they have not been formally charged. Iranian officials – including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – have repeatedly linked the three Americans to the fate of 11 Iranian nationals that they say are “illegally” held in the US.
Iran’s state-run English-language PressTV reported Iran’s intelligence chief saying on Wednesday that “unlike the Iranians in American custody, the three detained Americans are being treated well and humanely.”
The frequent linkage has led to speculation that Iran is pursuing an exchange, not unlike one that Iran requested for young French woman Clotilde Reiss, who was teaching French in Isfahan and then arrested on spying charges during post-election protests last summer.
France suspected of recent prisoner exchange deal
Last December, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner ruled out a “swap” of Ms. Reiss for Ali Vakili Rad, an Iranian agent who murdered Iran’s former prime minister, Shahpour Bakhtiar, in Paris in 1991.
“What does he want?” Mr. Kouchner was reported as saying five months ago. “He wants to make us swap Clotilde Reiss for Vakili Rad, that’s to say the assassin of Shahpour Bakhtiar. It’s out of the question.”