Elkins Park native and Cheltenham High grad Josh Fattal and his two fellow hikers will be put on trial in Iran, the country's foreign minister said Monday.
Fattal, Sarah Shourd and Shane Bauer were arrested on July 31 after crossing the border into Iran. Their families, friends and the U.S. government all contend the three are innocent tourists who accidentally lost their way during a five-day hike and unknowingly crossed over into Iran.
Iran last month accused the three of spying and Manouchehr Mottaki said they are now being interrogated.
"They have entered Iran with suspicious aims. They will be tried by Iran's judiciary and verdicts will be issued," Mottaki said in a news conference that was carried live on Iran's state television. However, the foreign minister did not say when the trial would begin.
Fattal's mother said recently, "We sleep with our cell phones close to our beds, in case…We say to ourselves, any day now, any day now, Josh will be released."
Laura Fattal's comments were made in a video the hikers' families sent to the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations recently. In her message, she says to Josh,
"I love you, I miss you I want you to be home…but I know with your calm and your composure, your kindness and your compassionate nature, that you'll come out."
That video is also posted on the Free The Hikers Web site where people can get the latest developments and sign a petition asking the Iranian government to release the hikers.
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The U.S and its allies are in a dispute right now over Iran's nuclear program right now and it appears the hikers are being used as leverage in that fight. Mottaki's proclamation that they'll be tried came after the U.S. "dismissed" an offer this past weekend by Tehran to exchange nuclear fuel.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reacted to the news of a possible trial by asking again for the hikers' release.
“We consider this a totally unfounded charge. There is no basis for it. The three young people who were detained by the Iranians have absolutely no connection with any kind of action against the Iranian state or government. In fact, they were out hiking and unfortunately, apparently, allegedly walked across an unmarked boundary. We appeal to the Iranian leadership to release these three young people, and to free them as soon as possible,” she said.