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Washington bishops in plea for prisoners’ release from Iran: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 23, 2011 September 28, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Iran, Washington.
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Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, © freethehikers.org

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Episcopal and Roman Catholic Bishops of Washington have travelled to Iran along with two American Muslim leaders to plead for the release of two American hikers imprisoned on espionage charges.

Bishop John Chane and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, along with the executive director,  Nihad Awad, and chairman, Larry Shaw, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) had been invited to Tehran to meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian media reported.

The four were quoted by the Iranian press as having “voiced hope that their request for the release of the two Americans materializes, so that they could effectively work for the release of Iranians imprisoned there upon their return to America.”

Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd were arrested on July 31, 2009 after they strayed into Iran while hiking along the Iraq-Iran border in Kurdistan.  Shourd was released last year “on humanitarian and medical grounds” and President Ahmadinejad on Sept 13 said the two other hikers would be released upon posting bail of $500,000.

On August 21, Bauer and Fattal were each sentenced to eight years in prison by a revolutionary court in Tehran on charges of espionage and illegal entry.  Shourd was also convicted in absentia.

A report in the state-run FARS news agency indicated the hikers release may be conditional upon the release of Iranians jailed in the US.  FARS stated “more than 60 Iranian nationals are being held in US prisons, 11 of them on political grounds and without any proof or evidence.”

The Iranian news agency said that during their meeting with President Ahmadinejad “the four American religious leaders expressed the hope that the trend of developments would move in a way that they can push for the freedom of the Iranian inmates in the US.”

Iran’s judiciary has not given any timetable for the release of Fattal and Bauer, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week said Washington had received word through a number of sources that their release was imminent.

It was reported this morning that the two would be released on bail later today.