May 12th, 2010
01:26 PM ET

Detained hiker's mother picks up Iranian visas

The mother of one of three American hikers detained in Iran picked up visas Wednesday that will enable her and two other mothers to visit their children.Laura Fattal held the visas triumphantly as she and her son Alex exited the Iranian interests section.

"I'm guarding these passports tight," she said. "I'm holding them very, very tight to me. I will keep them very, very guarded and I cannot wait to hand them personally to Nora (Shourd) and to Cindy (Hickey) so that they will have them in their hands."

Sarah Shourd, 31; Shane Bauer, 27; and Josh Fattal, 27, were detained last July and sent to Tehran's Evin Prison. Their families say the three accidentally strayed across an unmarked border into Iran while on a hiking trip

to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Holding the visas Wednesday, Laura Fattal thanked the Iranians, and said she presented roses, in multiples of three, to staffers at the Iranian interests section, as the rose is Iran's national flower.

"I am eager to go to Iran," she said. "I look forward to the hospitality, to the generosity of the people and I look forward to continued good will."

She said she did not know why the visas were approved at this point, but said the families have been working through a lawyer to move the process ahead.

The mothers, she said, will be leaving "very soon." She said she cried

in a taxi on the way to pick up the visas because it "was really going to happen."

"It's wonderful that the mothers will be able to go over and hug their children and to see their children," said Alex Fattal. "This humanitarian spirit on the part of the Iranian government is tremendously appreciated by all three families. We can only hope and pray that that spirit continues and that the humanitarian gesture of this visit become a wider humanitarian gesture of a release."

The hikers have been detained for more than nine months, he said. "It's taken a very difficult emotional toll on all of the families." The granting of the visas, he said, was a "glimmer of hope."

Laura Fattal said the mothers were notified Tuesday morning their requests for visas has been approved. She told CNN she's been given no reason to believe they will be allowed to bring their children home, but she remains "hopeful."

"I am constantly hopeful. I have never lost hope for one second," Fattal said.

Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency quoted Iran's foreign minister Monday as saying the decision to issue the visas was decided on a humanitarian basis prior to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to the United Nations last week for a conference on nuclear nonproliferation.

The families applied for visas six months ago.

The three Americans have not been formally charged, although Tehran has said they will face trial on espionage charges.

They have had little contact with the outside world since their arrests.

They made a brief phone call home March 9 and have access to a few letters and messages sent by relatives, friends and supporters.

The Swiss ambassador to Iran met with the detainees last month and said Bauer and Shourd are in poor health and are considering a hunger strike.

The United States, which has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since 1979, has relied on Switzerland to appeal directly for the hikers' release.

- CNN's Paul Courson, Steve Kastenbaum and Susan Candiotti contributed to this report

Filed under: Human rights • Iran
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Nani Aspinwall

    These hikers are explorers, lovers of culture and nature for peace. They value culture and not war and were there valuing nature and culture, exploring not thinking about war.

    May 14, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mac

      Ok...first of all, let me tell you all about the region, having been there myself. It is dangerous at the best of times, war or not. Being American doesn't help them but it has little to do with the situation in this case. There is no reason to be hiking around unprotected and unprepared in such a place. I wouldn't even go hiking in the Sierras w/o a map for gosh sakes! I guess those expensive college educations they have didn't come with common sense. What a shame.

      May 17, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ingrid

    Oh Ryan, Dont tell me you still live at home with mommy and daddy. No one can be that ignorent about world affairs. I supose we can expect you to visit a border city in mexico soon as well. Maybe you wont ACCIDENTALLY meet up with the drug cartel and get shot. What is wrong with these hikers is that they don't know what a GPS device is? Or what a map is? Or understand what volital political history Americans have with this region? Maybe they dont remember the Iran Hostage Crisis? Or maybe they dont understand that they believe in a COMPLETLY different Religion? Maybe they will learn something from this Hiking experience. moreover I hope our Idealistic Youth in America will learn something from all this. I doubt it. Many Americans cant even tell you the name of our Sec. of Defence, muchless our own President. I live by this rule "IF YOU NEED AN EXCUSE ANY ONE WILL DO". I am deeply concerned for the mothers of these Idiot Hikers. They are the ones truly suffering and I am glad to see the Iranian Goverment give them an oppertunity to see there children.

    May 15, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. JP

    They might of did something wrong for them to arrest them.
    or they might of been at a restriced area.

    and for how bad terrism is they might be planning something.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Art Hambach

    Iran has hinted it was open to a prisoner swap in the case of Sarah Shroud, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal. The United States has turned the idea down probably because the US doesnot have diplomatic relations with Iran. President Obama has said he prefers to resolve our problems with other nations diplomatically rather than militarily.Here' s his chance. Switzland has been acting for us in this situation. President Obama should ask them to aim at arranging a prisoner trade. Bring these three Americansd home.

    May 24, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
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