05/19/2011 09:03 am ET | Updated Jul 19, 2011

Mothers Of American Hikers Held In Iran Begin Hunger Strike

WASHINGTON -- The mothers of two American hikers held in Iran for nearly two years said they would start a hunger strike in solidarity with their sons, whom they believe have stopped eating to protest the delay of a scheduled court hearing.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 28, last saw their mothers one year ago in the Tehran prison where they have been held since their arrest near the Iraq-Kurdistan border on July 21, 2009.

Cindy Hickey, 50, and Laura Fattal, 58, announced Thursday they would mark the anniversary of their brief visit -- the only time they have seen their sons since the men were detained -- with a hunger strike. Bauer's fiance Sarah Shourd, who was imprisoned with the two men until Iranian authorities released her on bail in September, as well as other family members and supporters, will take over the hunger strike on Saturday.

Shourd recently said she was suffering from PTSD and would not return to Iran to face trial. She said she and her friends had staged several hunger strikes to protest prison conditions before she was released. She said when authorities delayed bringing them to court, they refused all food.

Bauer, a freelance journalist, and Fattal, an environmental advocate, were set to appear in court May 11 to answer what they say are baseless charges of espionage. But the two men were not moved from Evin Prison, where they have been incarcerated, to court. Iranian authorities have offered no explanation.

"We have not had any news about Shane and Josh for many months and we are terrified that they have now gone on a hunger strike to protest against this latest, devastating delay," Hickey said. "We're worried that they are not getting proper medical care and that their lives may be in danger. We want Iran to show us that Shane and Josh are alive and well and send them home to us right now instead of playing cynical games with their lives."

"Whoever is to blame for preventing our sons' release is bringing shame on Iran," Laura Fattal said. "Shane and Josh have been denied justice and compassion for far too long. Today we begin a hunger strike and stand with our sons to urge Iran to stop punishing them -- and our families -- for no reason."

The men have not been seen since February 6, when they appeared at a closed court hearing. They have been allowed just two brief phone calls to their families in the 657 days since their arrest.