The United States has again called on the government of Iran to release three young American hikers, who were arrested last summer by Iranian authorities. The three, Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Josh Fattal, were hiking in Iraq in July 2009 along the Iran border.
Recently, the Iranian government permitted the Swiss ambassador to visit the three young people. It was only the third visit by the Swiss allowed to the three young hikers in nine months. The Swiss government acts as the protecting power for U.S. interests in Iran since diplomatic relations were severed in 1979.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement that she was pleased about the consular visit of the Swiss Ambassador, but said the U.S. is "disturbed by the families' reports of their children's physical and emotional health." She called the three Americans "innocent tourists in Iraq's Kurdistan region" who have been "unjustly held for almost 9 months without formal charges or access to legal representation." She called on the Iranian government to release them and to allow them to go home to their families.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley also spoke to reporters of U.S. concerns regarding the three Americans: "We are concerned about their health. . . .We obviously believe that their detention is unwarranted, but the fact that they've gone nine months with no charges filed is of great concern to us."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs also called on the Iranian government to release the three Americans "without further delay." He urged Iran "to resolve the cases of all missing and detained American citizens in Iran, including Robert Levinson who has been missing in Iran since March 2007."