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U.S. Urges Iran To Release Hikers

A woman waves to people arriving on vehicles in the town of Abyei ahead of the referendum. Residents of the remote and disputed Abyei border region say they will press on with their own referendum on whether to join Sudan or South Sudan, despite warnings it could trigger violence in the already volatile area.

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It has been more than 100 days since three young American hikers were detained by Iranian security forces. Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were hiking in Northern Iraq in July when they apparently wandered by mistake into Iran in a poorly marked border area. In September, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he would ask Iran's judiciary to expedite the legal process for the 3 Americans and "take a look at the case with maximum leniency."

On November 9, Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki said the 3 Americans committed the crime of entering the country illegally, and face other accusations as well. "The judiciary is examining their case," he said.

Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said any charge against the 3 hikers is baseless. "We believe strongly that there is no evidence to support any charge whatsoever. And we would renew our request on behalf of these 3 young people and their families that the Iranian government exercise compassion and release them, so they can return home," said Secretary Clinton.

The 3 Americans are currently being held in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. They have been allowed two visits by Swiss diplomats who represent U.S. interests in Iran, since Iran and the U.S. do not have diplomatic relations.

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Clinton met with the families of the three young American hikers detained in Iran:

"As a mother, my heart went out to all of them. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to know that your child was imprisoned for now a hundred days with very little contact between you and them. I told them we were doing everything we possibly could to get Shane and Joshua and Sarah home, and we are exploring every angle."

Secretary of State Clinton called on the government of Iran to free them on humanitarian and compassionate grounds "as soon as possible and return them home to their families."