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Free Hiker Hostages


American hikers Shane Bauer, left, Josh Fattal, center, and Sarah Shourd stand prior to meeting with their mothers at the Esteghlal hotel in Tehran, 21 May 2010

2010 has slipped away, and with it, the hope that two young Americans would be able to celebrate the start of the new year with their families in the United States.

2010 has slipped away, and with it, the hope that two young Americans held in an Iranian prison for more than 500 days, would be able to celebrate the start of the new year with their families in the United States.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, along with their friend Sarah Shourd, were first detained by Iranian authorities in July 2009, when the three were hiking in northern Iraq near the border with Iran. The young Americans were taken to Iran's notorious Evin prison and have since been charged with illegal border crossing and espionage. In September, Sarah Shourd, who had been kept in solitary confinement for 23 out of every 24 hours, was released on humanitarian grounds, after posting bail of $500,000.

Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer remain behind bars, and the Iranian government has said they will be put on trial in February. Over the course of one and a half years, these Americans have been given virtually no access to their attorney; permitted very few visits by representatives of the Swiss embassy (the U.S. protecting power in Iran); and allowed to meet for one brief visit at Evin prison with their mothers, who pled with Iranian authorities for their release.

President Barack Obama has described the American youths as "open-minded and adventurous young people who represent the best of America. . . teachers, artists, and advocates for social and environmental justice." He said their detention was "unjust" and called for their immediate release.

After more than 500 days, it is past time for the government of Iran, as a signatory to multiple conventions on human rights, to act in line with the principles of justice, as President Obama has urged, and release these two young Americans.

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