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Families ask Iran to release two American hikers

By the CNN Wire
  • Families of American hikers held in Iran on suspicion of espionage plea for hikers' release
  • Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have been held in Tehran for more than a year
  • They and Sarah Shourd were arrested after allegedly straying into Iran while hiking in Iraq
  • Shourd was released on humanitarian grounds in September.

(CNN) -- The families of two American hikers held in Iran on suspicion of espionage issued a plea to the Iranian government Monday, asking for the hikers' release.

"This week will be our second Thanksgiving without Shane and Josh," the families of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal said in a written statement. "We are heartbroken by the thought of their absence once again from this important family occasion."

The families added that "it makes no sense to continue to detain Shane and Josh" because they "have no power to change our government's policies."

Bauer and Fattal have been held in Evin Prison in the Iranian capital of Tehran for more than a year. They and a third hiker, Sarah Shourd, were arrested in 2009 after they allegedly strayed across an unmarked border into Iran while hiking in Iraq's Kurdistan region.

Iran has accused them of espionage, but the country released Shourd on humanitarian grounds in September.

The families of Bauer and Fattal on Monday asked the Iranian government to "show them the same humanitarian compassion that you extended to Sarah."

On Sunday, a trial for two remaining American hikers was postponed until February 6, according to their attorney, Masoud Shafii.

Sarah Shourd: 'I still feel numb'

The reason for the delay was the absence of Fattal and Bauer at their initial trial on November 6, Shafii said he was told. The court told him the two were summoned to court but did not show up, he said.

Shafii said that makes no sense, because the two are in government custody, and it's the government's responsibility to bring them to court.

"I am upset, but my hands are tied," Shafii said. "I can't do anything. I've read their case file, and I found no reason for them to be charged with a crime, so even one more day in prison is not justified."

State-run media reported days before November 6 that the trial date had been postponed as officials decided whether or not to summon Shourd.

"The court schedule for the two Americans was set, but the judiciary itself faced a problem, which was whether or not to summon Sarah Shourd to appear in court," Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, a spokesman for the judiciary and attorney general for Tehran, said at a news conference, according to the county's official news agency.

In early November, Iran's mission to the United Nations said Bauer and Fattal's parents would be allowed to speak to their sons via telephone.

The decision on the phone calls was made based on "humanitarian consideration" after meetings with U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-New York, and Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee, according to Mahdi Nourian, a spokesman for Iran's U.N. mission.

It is unclear whether the telephone contact has since occurred.