Sarah Shourd was held in solitary confinement in Evin prison, in Iran, for 410 days until her release on bail on 14th September 2010, after a world-wide campaign.
Sarah's fiance Shane Bauer and their friend Josh Fattal were released the following year, on 21st September 2011.
On July 31st 2009, 3 US citizens, Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, rang a friend's mobile phone to say they had been surrounded by Iranian Guards and were being taken somewhere in a vehicle.
Two weeks later, Hilary Clinton announced the 3 were being held in the notorious Evin Prison in Iran.
From that day onwards their fate has been in the hands of politicians in the US and Iran.
What started out as a short walking holiday, and a welcome break from their busy lives, has now spiralled into a situation over which neither they nor their families and friends have any control.
While media attention has focused on efforts by the families to persuade the Iranian authorities to release them on compassionate and humanitarian grounds, little attention has been paid to how the 3 'Hikers' arrived in their present predicament
THE TRUTH IS OUT
For over a year the Iranian government has made a series of public statements accusing the 3 hikers of being spies who hiked across the border.
Meanwhile The Nation has conducted a 5 month investigation into the true circumstances of their abduction.
THE TRUE STORY?
- Shane, Sarah and Josh were forced at gunpoint into Iran
- The Americans were remanded into the custody of Lt. Col. Heyva Taab, then head of the Revolutionary Guards' intelligence unit in the region.
- Their kidnappers, a criminal gang of Revolutionary Guards, were involved in cross-border assassinations of Iranian Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan.
- They received a bounty from central government for each person they killed.
- Less than a month after the kidnapping of Sarah, Shane and Josh, Taab was arrested and charged with murder.
- Since his arrest, Taab has been implicated in a vast criminal enterprise encompassing a profitable smuggling operation and dozens of murders, rapes and kidnappings.
- Taab's case has twice been before a judge, and he awaits execution in a Tehran prison.
A US State Department spokesperson said that he had been unaware of evidence that the three were arrested in Iraqi territory but would not comment further.
OUR EARLY DOUBTS
Since our early involvement we have had serious doubts about the official version of events.
A version, based purely on unsubstantiated Iranian reports, that Sarah, Shane and Josh were spies who hiked across the border.
AN OVERLOOKED STORY
On 16th August 2009, a UK newspaper, the Daily Telegraph carried a story entitled:-
'Farhad Lohoni, the leader of the local tribe, said his relatives had witnessed a group of men cross the border using a road that leads to a base used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Marivan, Iran.
'He claimed that the local Kurdish security service had records of a call suspected to have been made by an Iranian agent to Iran that is said to have tipped off the IRGC to the Americans' presence in the scenic area.
"This was not a case of the Americans straying into Iran," he said. "They were targeted and captured by a group that came over from Iran, ignoring Iraq's sovereignty. We know this and it means that Iran must have wanted to take Americans hostage at this sensitive time." '
"THE IRRESPONSIBLE HIKERS"
Shane Bauer and his girlfriend Sarah had experience of living in the Middle East and Josh was also widely travelled.
A C Thompson talks about Shane's work
Shane, in particular, is a freelance journalist, fluent in Arabic, who only a few months before their kidnapping had been on assignment in Iraq.
Shane's journalistic skills have gained him widespread respect.
As the distinguished investigative reporter, AC Thompson, told us:
"He was the best-prepared young journalist I'd met in ages... I don't think he's a person who takes undue, insane risks at all... I obviously would recommend him to any editor, any producer, who is looking for a real journalist who can do it all."
Kurdish Tourist film
THE DANGEROUS HOLIDAY?
Up until a few weeks ago, the Sulaimania Province of Kurdistan, where they were holidaying has been regarded as a safe, peaceful region, rich in cultural history.
Ahmed Awa waterfall is a well-frequented tourist spot in the mountains.
A friend in Syria, who had himself recently visited the area, helped Sarah and Shane to plan their trip and recommended places for them to go.
Other sources tell of journalists using the area as a break from their work at the height of the violence in Baghdad.
None of the three speaks Farsi and nor had they ever expressed a wish to go to Iran.
Shane speaks out
SHANE AND SARAH TELL THE WORLD
In May, when Sarah, Shane and Josh were taken from prison to a hotel in Tehran to meet their mothers, a meeting which was widely televised, an interviewer asked:-
'Do you regret walking into Iran?'
Sarah and Shane replied:-
"We never walked into Iran... We can't talk about that."
FREE THE HOSTAGES
The detainment of Sarah, Shane and Josh contravenes international law. Sarah's continued solitary confinement, for an indeterminate length of time, amounts to torture. Iran has no excuse for holding Sarah Shane and Josh.
"These new revelations, if indeed true, show the hikers have been victims of political machinations and manipulation," said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
"The fact that they have been held for so long without prosecution strongly supports this trend. Under Iranian laws, they have committed no crime and should be released immediately.
Their Iranian lawyer, who has studied the judicial files against them, has consistently maintained the only charge against them is illegal entry, which is subject to a fine and not arbitrary detention for so long. With this new information, even that charge appears fabricated, and there is no basis for holding them."(via the Nation)