Big names urge Iran to free American hikers

December 2, 2009

Nearly 80 prominent people from around the world appealed Wednesday for the release of three American hikers who have been detained in Iran for more than four months.

Shane Bauer, a freelance journalist, Sarah Shourd, a teacher and women’s rights advocate, and Josh Fattal, an environmentalist, were arrested July 31 IRAN-HIKERS/while on a hike in Iraqi Kurdistan.

They apparently were detained after accidently crossing a poorly marked section of border with Iran.

The Islamic Republic charged the three hikers with espionage last month and Tehran’s chief public prosecutor has said the judiciary will decide their fate.

Under Iran’s Islamic law, espionage can be punishable by death.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said “there is no evidence to support any charge whatsoever” against the youths.

The prominent collection of academics, intellectuals, artists, adventurers, writers, journalists and activists, urged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to make good on his pledge to pursue maximum leniency for the three.

“To continue to detain them without due process raises grave concerns that Iran is holding these three young Americans for political purposes and calls into question Iran’s stated commitment to the rule of law,” the group said in a letter.

The signatories included, Ms. Magazine co-founder Gloria Steinem, Mother Jones magazine editor Monika Bauerlein, civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope, peace activist Noam Chomsky and antiwar activist Medea Benjamin, who founded the group Code Pink.

Also signing were Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi, Virgin founder Sir IRAN-USA/DETAINEDRichard Branson, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire.

A large number of editors, publishers and professors endorsed the letter as well, including Terry Anderson, the former Associated Press correspondent who spent nearly seven years as a hostage in Beirut and now teaches at the University of Kentucky.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/ (Shourd shown in photo provided by; Reuters/Jamal Penjwey (Ahmed Awa tourist resort in Iraq near where the hikers disappeared)

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