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The news that Iran has released 5 British yachtsmen who had inadvertently wandered into Iranian waters in November is most welcome. According to Iranian state radio, Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps published a statement saying, "We have reached the conclusion that they entered Iran's territorial waters by mistake." The 5 were detained in the Persian Gulf on November 25 and released after 6 days in government custody.
Several Americans who have been detained by Iranian authorities, however, have not been so fortunate. Last July 3 young Americans hiking in Iraq accidently wandered across the poorly marked border with Iran. Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd were arrested and have been in prison ever since. Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki said the 3 committed the crime of illegally entering the country, and a prosecutor in Tehran said that they may be accused of espionage, but no official charges have been leveled that would allow the case to proceed in the judiciary.
Another case involves Robert Levinson, an American citizen who went missing in Iran during a private business trip to Iran's Kish Island on March 9, 2007. In statements coinciding with the 1,000th day of his disappearance, both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs again called on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran "to assist in providing any information on Mr. Levinson's whereabouts and in ensuring his prompt and safe return to his family in the United States." Secretary Clinton noted that while Iranian authorities promised to share information about their investigation into Mr. Levinson's disappearance, "that promise has yet to be fulfilled."
Secretary Clinton said Mr. Levinson's case remains a priority for the United States, as does resolving the cases of other American citizens who are unjustly detained in Iran. They include the three hikers, American scholar Kian Tajbahksh who was arrested in Tehran after the disputed presidential election and who was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison after a mass show trial, and Reza Taghavi, a 71-year old American businessman who was arrested by Iranian authorities in May 2008 and is reportedly being held without charges.