Hiker’s family finds hope in Ahmadinejad remarks

Josh Fattal's relatives say they haven't had contact with him since he was detained in Iran.
Family members of one of the three hikers detained in Iran are heartened and hopeful over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s willingness to ask jurists to handle the case in a timely manner and weigh “maximum leniency” for their release.

“We are encouraged by the recent statements of the president that he wants to deal with this matter expeditiously,” said Alex Fattal, brother of hiker Josh Fattal. Alex Fattal, who spoke to CNN’s “American Morning” on Wednesday with his mother Laura Fattal, said family members haven’t had contact with Josh and “we take things day by day.” Iranian authorities detained Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd after they strayed into Iran in late July while hiking in a part of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region. Ahmadinejad, who arrived in New York on Tuesday night for the U.N. General Assembly meeting, addressed the issue in an Associated Press television interview. He said the crossing of the Iranian border by “several American citizens” represented an “illegal entry,” an act that is “considered a crime everywhere.” “The judiciary handles these cases. The judiciary in Iran is completely independent, and no one can interfere with the process of the law and work of the judge.” However, he said, “what I can ask is that the judiciary expedites the process and gives it its full attention … and basically look at the case with maximum leniency.” The mothers of the the hikers wrote Ahmadinejad a letter asking him to bring their children to New York with him. While that was not to be, Laura Fattal told CNN that “we’re very, very encouraged by the compassion of President Ahmadinejad.”

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The ordeal for the families has been nerve-rattling. Alex Fattal said there has been no contact with the three and it’s been difficult. Laura Fattal said there’s no specific information about where they are being held. “We haven’t gotten a phone call. We haven’t been able to receive a letter, to send a letter,” Alex Fattal said. “We’re hoping for their quick release.” He said vigils are being planned throughout the country on September 30, mentioning Los Angeles, California; the Bay Area in California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Boston, Massachusetts; and New York. “We’re very much hoping that those vigils turn into welcome home parties,” he said. “That would mark two months in detention. We’re hoping and hoping that it doesn’t go this long.” Laura Fattal issued “a humanitarian appeal” to Ahmadinejad “that he will continue his compassionate attitude toward our children and that he will release them and bring them to the United States and have us embrace them and be part of all the families.”