Laura Fattal of Elkins Park, Montgomery County and the mothers of the other two Americans jailed in Iran, hugged and kissed their children Thursday in an emotional first meeting since the trio was arrested in July.
Iran detained the three Americans -- Sarah Shourd, 31; her boyfriend, Shane Bauer, 27; and their friend Josh Fattal, 27 -- along the Iraqi border and have accused them of spying. Their relatives reject the accusation and say the three were hiking in Iraq's scenic and largely peaceful northern Kurdish region. Josh went to Cheltenham High School. He's an environmentalist and was a Teaching Fellow with the International Hnors Program studying abroad when he visited Sarah and Shane in Damascus. That is when the three went on their hiking trip, according to FreeTheHikers.com.
The day before the face-to-face meeting, Josh's mom thanked the government of Iran for allowing the visit.
"I'm very very grateful also and it's a humanitarian effort and it's exactly why we're here, because we're seeing our sons and our daughter," Laura Fattal said.
Iran's state-run English-language Press TV aired footage of Nora Shourd, Cindy Hickey and Laura Fattal throwing their arms up in the air and rushing to embrace their children as they entered the room. The mothers hugged their children and kissed them on the cheeks as they embraced, some of them rocking back and forth together with tears in their eyes.
The mothers, who were wearing long black headscarves and holding bouquets of flowers, arrived in Tehran on Wednesday to visit their children and try to secure the their release.
The meeting began around 10 a.m. local time (530GMT) and apparently was taking place at a hotel in north Tehran.
Relatives have had little news on the three Americans since their arrest, and their mothers are eager to talk with them and gauge where their health stands after some nine months spent in captivity in Iran's notorious Evin prison.
Nora Shourd said she worried especially about the effect that near-solitary confinement may be having on her always social daughter. With no one to talk to, Sarah had become seriously depressed, Nora Shourd says she was told by the Swiss diplomats who visited the trio last month. The diplomats also reported that Sarah was suffering a serious gynecological condition, while Bauer had a stomach ailment.
A lawyer representing the Americans, Masoud Shafii, has said that during their trip to Iran the mothers are also seeking meetings with officials involved in the case, and ideally with top Iranian leaders, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all state matters.