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Video shows hikers' 'lightness of heart' before Iran prison, mom says

By Jean Shin
CNN
An undated family photo shows Sarah Shourd, one of three U.S. hikers detained in Iran since July 31.
An undated family photo shows Sarah Shourd, one of three U.S. hikers detained in Iran since July 31.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal have been jailed nearly three months
  • American trio charged with illegally crossing into Iraqi Kurdistan from Iran
  • Video was shot by Shon Meckfessel, a friend who went to Kurdistan with them
RELATED TOPICS
  • Fars News Agency
  • Kurdistan
  • Iraq

NEW YORK (CNN) -- On Tuesday, the counter at the Web site Free the Hikers was at 88 days.

The site has been counting the days, hours and minutes since July 31, when three U.S. hikers -- Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal -- were detained under charges of illegally crossing the border from Iraqi Kurdistan into Iran.

The three remain imprisoned under Iranian custody for what their family and friends claim was an innocent mistake.

In the latest effort to obtain their release, the hikers' families have released video of the three -- shot two days before they were detained -- fooling around like friends on vacation.

The video was filmed by Shon Meckfessel, a friend who accompanied them on their Kurdistan trip. Meckfessel had meant to join them on their fateful outing but stayed behind because he felt under the weather.

The videos show glimpses of the relaxed travelers clearly enjoying themselves as they take a break from exploring a town in Kurdistan.

"Yo it's hot. Yo, it's hot. It's 'cause I'm in Iraq. Someone get me a fan. Someone get me a fan. 'Cause I'm in Kurdistan," Fattal raps as he chuckles and points to the Iraqi landscape behind him.

The second video shows the three walk into what looks like an abandoned brick building and randomly start dancing, with Meckfessel directing them from behind the camera.

The videos have been posted on YouTube and can be seen on the Web site, at www.freethehikers.org.

"It's bittersweet," said Cindy Hickey, Bauer's mother. "Watching them, I see the lightness of heart that they had making [the videos]. It's fun to see them, but watching it, I wonder what they are still doing there. These are innocent kids."

Hickey has said that the families still have not been able to contact Bauer, Shourd or Fattal. Through the release of the videos, Hickey says that they hope "it will indicate how harmless these kids are."

"It's fun to see them [on the video], but watching it, I wonder what they are still doing there. These are innocent kids."
--Cindy Hickey, mother of Shane Bauer

Switzerland's ambassador to Iran paid the three a consular visit in September and said they were in good condition, but they have had no direct contact with relatives, the families said in a news release. Switzerland handles U.S. consular matters in Tehran, as the United States and Iran have no diplomatic relations.

The Americans entered northern Iraq from Turkey on July 28 during a planned five-day hike. Bauer and Shourd had been living in Damascus, Syria; Fattal was visiting. They set out to hike in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region.

Meckfessel, who spoke with Bauer the morning of their hike, said his friends did not know they were near the border and made "a simple and regrettable mistake" by crossing into Iran.

Relatives have said the three accidentally strayed into Iran across an unmarked border.

Authorities in Iran charged the three with illegally entering the country, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.