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Moms Of Jailed U.S. Hikers Appeal To Ayatollah

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MINNEAPOLIS — The mothers of three Americans held in Iran marked 11 months of their captivity Wednesday with a letter to the country's supreme leader pleading for their release.

The letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was signed by the mothers of Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal. Iranian officials have accused the three of espionage after they were taken into captivity along the Iran-Iraq border last July during what their families say was a hiking trip.

Cindy Hickey, Nora Shourd and Laura Fattal appealed to Khamenei to "intervene immediately in their case and bring the cruel injustice of their continued detention to an end." The mothers said their children should either be tried immediately or released, and complained they have been deprived of access to their lawyer, diplomatic visits and other human rights.

The mothers had unsuccessfully sought a meeting with Khamenei when they traveled to Iran last month.

In Washington, the State Department repeated longstanding U.S. calls for the three hikers and other Americans detained in Iran to be released and renewed a plea for information about Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing there in 2007.

Spokesman P.J. Crowley made the appeals as the Swiss ambassador to Iran, Livia Leu Agosti, whose country represents U.S. interests in Iran, was visiting Washington to mark the 30th anniversary of the agreement that established Switzerland as the "protecting power" for the United States in Iran.

Crowley said Agosti had "greatly assisted our government in our efforts to ensure fair and human treatment" for the hikers as well as for another American, Reza Taghavi, who has been detained without charge since May 2008.

Josh Fattal, 28, is from Pennsylvania. Sarah Shourd, 31, is from California and Bauer, 27, from Minnesota. All three are graduates of the University of California at Berkeley.

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