Hikers' Families Get Green Light to Visit Iran Prison

Third time could be the charm

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    An Iranian state television channel said Monday that the families of three UC Berkeley graduates arrested along the Iraqi border in July will be allowed to visit them in a Tehran prison.

    Iran's English-language Press TV did not say how it obtained the information, adding only that a date for the visit had not yet been set. The Americans' families have been told before that they would be granted visas to visit Iran only to find that they did not have the permission.

    Iran has accused Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal of illegal border crossing, espionage and having links to U.S. intelligence. Their relatives and the U.S. government have denied the spying accusations.

    The families of the three University of California at Berkeley graduates say they were hiking in the scenic Kurdistan region of northern Iraq and that if they did cross the border with Iran, they did so unintentionally.

    Bauer's mother, Cindy Hickey, and the brother of Fattal, Alex Fattal, said Monday that they heard through an established channel of communication that the Iranian government has approved visas for several family members but she would not elaborate on the source of that information.

    Hickey said, however, that it is the third time the families have heard that in recent weeks "only to not get visas put in our hands."

    Hickey said the families will not solidify travel plans until they take possession of visas and are given a window of time for their trip. But, she said, she and other family members all have suitcases packed and are ready to go at a moment's notice.

    "We're very cautious about our optimism," Hickey said. "Emotionally I know I have to be really careful."

    Washington does not have diplomatic relations with Iran but has a U.S. interests section at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran. A U.S. State Department official said the Iranian Foreign Ministry has told the Swiss Embassy that the visas for the families will be approved but that it was not sure when the actual visit would be approved.