Elkins Park resident Laura Fattal hopes that her son Josh, one of three American hikers held in Iran on suspicion of espionage, will be released after a report that the Americans were arrested on the Iraqi side of the border came out.
Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were arrested July 31 during what their families have said was a simple hiking trip along the Iraq-Iran border. They have said if the hikers crossed into Iran it was an accident.
The Nation reported Thursday that two witnesses from a Kurdish village near the border say the Americans were on Iraqi territory when they were arrested by Iranian forces. The publication said the witnesses wouldn't allow their names to be used because they feared retaliation from Iran.
“We have to focus and assimilate this, but it's shocking,” Nora Shourd, Sarah's mother, said in an interview Thursday on CNN. “It's shocking it hasn't come out in the public, that it happened to these kids, and that this is the reason they're being held.”
In an earlier interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, Shourd said the report “kind of highlights the whole thing we've been saying all along, which is why they're being held so long? ... All the justification that's come out of Iran doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.”
Bauer's mother, Cindy Hickey, told CNN the story “kind of terrifies me.”
Bauer had worked as a freelancer journalist, and wrote at least one piece on Iraq for The Nation, but the publication has said he wasn't on assignment for them at the time of his arrest.
The magazine said its story was based on a five-month investigation. It described its witnesses as from Zalem, a few miles from the Iran border.
A senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case and ongoing diplomatic efforts to free the hikers, said the department was unable to corroborate The Nation's report.
The hikers’ mothers have grown increasingly frustrated since traveling to Iran in May to meet with their children, who were being held at Evin Prison in Tehran. Earlier this month, they demanded that Iran release the hikers or put them on trial, and said they were being used as pawns in a standoff with the U.S.
Iran's top human rights official said recently that the three would probably go on trial soon if prosecutors decide they have enough evidence.
Fattal, 28, is from Pennsylvania. Shourd, 31, is from California and Bauer, 27, from Minnesota. All three are graduates of the University of California at Berkeley.