Iran to let Swiss officials visit 3 detained U.S. hikers

Josh Fattal's relatives say they haven't had contact with him since he was detained in Iran.
Iran has notified the Swiss government that it can have access to three American hikers detained near the border with Iraq, two senior U.S. officials confirmed Tuesday.

According to the U.S. officials, Iran said the Swiss can pay a “consular” visit to the three, meaning they can see them to check their condition. Iranian authorities detained Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd after they were believed to have strayed into Iran in late July while hiking in a part of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region. The mothers of the the hikers wrote Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a letter asking him to bring their children to New York when he arrived in the United States to address the United Nations General Assembly last Tuesday. Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that the crossing of the Iranian border by “several American citizens” represented an “illegal entry,” an act that is “considered a crime everywhere.” He insisted that he had no control over the case. “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,” he said in an Associated Press television interview.

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However, he also said, “what I can ask is that the judiciary expedites the process and give it its full attention … and basically look at the case with maximum leniency.” Fattal’s mother, Laura Fattal, told CNN last week that “we’re very, very encouraged by the compassion of President Ahmadinejad.” The three Americans entered northern Iraq from Turkey on July 28 with plans for a five-day hike. Bauer and Shourd had been living in Damascus, Syria; Fattal was visiting. They set out to hike in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region with a fourth friend, Shon Meckfessel, who did not go on the hike. He stayed behind because he had a cold, he has said. He also said his friends did not know they were near the border and made “a simple and regrettable mistake” by crossing into Iran. Relatives have said the three “accidentally strayed into Iran across an unmarked border.” Authorities in Iran charged the three with illegally entering the country, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.