Things became even more complicated today for imprisoned Americans in Iran Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal. Iran's Intelligence Minister, Heidar Moslehi told Iranian television that Tehran has "credible evidence" the three young people have links to US intelligence services. See a video below.
Sarah Shourd and Shane Bauer were living in Damascus, Syria and were on vaction. Both of them are Arab speakers. Josh Fattal came from the States to visit them. The three friends were hiking in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq near the resort town of Ahmed Awa. They unknowingly wondered across the Iranian border where they were taken into custody on July 31st, 2009.
Ahmed Awa police spotted the hikers at one point on Friday, Ahmed said, and warned them that they were near the Iranian border - which is not marked in the area - and that they should be careful...A fourth American, Shon Meckfessel from Seattle, was ill that day and stayed behind in the Nirwan Hotel in Sulaimaniya. Some reports say the trio was able to reach Meckfessel by phone to tell him about the arrest. Reportedly, he left the hotel unannounced, leaving luggage behind and made it safely to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Mudhafer Mohammed, owner of the Nirwan Hotel, told CNN that the hikeers said they had come to the area because they heard it was safe...But, he said, he advised them against it.
"I warned them many times," Mohammed told CNN.
"When they told me that they are planning to go to Ahmed Awa, I told them, 'Don't go there because it is unsafe for you because you're American and Ahmed Awa is very close tot he Iranian border," he said.
Shane Bauer is from the San Francisco area. He is a contributor to New American Media, is an accomplished writer and photographer. His work has appeared in The Nation and Pacific News Service.
Sarah Shourd is a writer and contributor to New America Media, and Matador Pulse, and is believed to be from the San Francisco area. According to a Facebook profile, she is a volunteer English teacher for the Iraqi Students Project Connections - a program for Iraqi student refugees in Syria. At the time of her arrest, the profile said was "currently based in the Middle East.
As of February 2010, none of the parents have had any contact with their children. This from Sarah's mother:
Nora Shourd: Well, you know, Sarah was over there looking for a way to kind of give back. Part of, you know, what they talked about when they went to the Middle East was, you know, what can we do for this part of the world?Joshua Fattal is from near Cottage Grove, Oregon. He was the internship coordinator at Aprovecho Research Center, a nonprofit research and education center.
The video below are the mothers of Shane Bauer's, Cindy Hickey, Nora Shourd, Sarah's mother and Laura Fattal, Josh's Mother.
My original reporting: