Huffpost Politics

Supporters hold vigils for US hikers held in Iran

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BERKELEY, Calif. — Family and friends of three U.S. hikers held in Iran gathered for vigils around the country Wednesday, hoping for their quick release but buoyed by news that they're coping with detention.

"We do believe the light that burns tonight will travel to where they are being held in Tehran and that they will feel the love that comes to them," the families said in a statement released for the more than 14 planned candlelight vigils.

The events marked the two months since Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd were detained after straying over the border during a hike in northern Iraq.

Since the three's arrest, their families have had no contact with them.

On Tuesday, Iran allowed Swiss diplomats to meet with the three Americans, something viewed as a conciliatory gesture.

Family members said that was a huge relief.

"What we've heard through the State Department is that the kids are in good shape. They look good. They look healthy," said Shourd's mother, Nora Shourd, who attended a vigil at the University of California, Berkeley, from which all three graduated.

In Wyncote, Pa., just outside Philadelphia, Fattal's mother, Laura Fattal, said a Swiss diplomat hugged the three hikers and reported they are being treated well, are taking showers and are eating good food.

"That was very, very reassuring," she said. "We weren't sure how they were being kept."

About 100 people attended the Wyncote vigil, where supporters played Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released," one of Josh Fattal's favorite songs.

In Minnesota, the state where Bauer spent the first 14 years of his life and where his mother still lives, about 30 people gathered for a dinnertime vigil at the Peace Garden near Lake Harriet in Minneapolis.

The group, most wearing T-shirts that said, "Free the Hikers," lit candles and walked through the garden. Bauer's mother, Cindy Hickey of Pine City, Minn., teared up as she told the group she wished her son and his friends could be there with them.

"Shane, Sarah and Josh are peaceful people and they would really enjoy being here themselves," Hickey said.

At her side was Bauer's father, Al Bauer, who was in town from California. Asked what he'll do when he sees his son again, Al Bauer replied: "Squeeze him and not let go."

Laura Breckheimer of Minneapolis, a friend of the family who helped organize the vigil, said the point was "to send positive vibes and energy to Shane, Sarah and Josh."

In Berkeley, where supporters held up signs saying "Free the hikers," Nora Shourd said it was a relief to finally get news of the hikers and that the two months since they were arrested have been "very much up and down every day."

She said family members don't know what will happen next but they "feel encouraged by this recent momentum."


Associated Press writers Kathy Matheson in Wyncote, Pa., and Patrick Condon in Minneapolis contributed to this story.