The families of three American hikers detained in Iran said Wednesday they were hopeful the three would be released and return home soon after Iran's president said he would ask the country's judiciary to be lenient in their case.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is in New York City to speak to the United Nations later Wednesday, said in an Associated Press interview on Tuesday that he would ask the country's judiciary to expedite the process and to "look at the case with maximum leniency."
Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, all graduates of UC Berkeley, have been held in Iran for 53 days after apparently straying into the country while hiking in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region in late July. Since then, their families have had no information other than that the three were being detained somewhere in Iran.
"To just sit and wait -- that's where the helplessness is," Shourd's aunt, Karen Sandys said. "But there's so much power working for their release."
Shourd's mother and aunt wrote a letter to the Iranian president, hoping to win over his sensitive side.
"We're calling on him as a father, a parent. He certainly must know how we feel," Nora Shourd said, wearing a T-shirt stamped with "Free the Hikers." "We're saying 'be compassionate towards our children, be considerate.'"
In a joint statement, the families said that Ahmadinejad's "expression of compassion raises our hopes that the day they return to us will not be far off."
"Our immediate concern now is to know that our children are well," said the statement from the families, who have been keeping in daily contact with each other. "We hope the Iranian authorities will allow our children to speak to us without delay and grant them their right to consular access."
A candelight vigil is planned for Sept. 30, the two-month mark of the trios' captivity. The family hopes that vigil will turn into a joyful celebration of their return.