Hikers' Moms Get Their Travel Visas

Parents await final "go" for travel to Iran

Wednesday, May 12, 2010  |  Updated 9:14 AM PDT
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Hikers' Moms Get Their Travel Visas

NBC Bay Area

Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, all graduates of UC Berkeley, have been held in Iran since July 30, after apparently straying into the country while hiking in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region.

The mothers of three American hikers jailed in Iran finally have their visas -- the final piece of legal paperwork they needed to in order to travel to see their kids.

Laura Fattal, Cindy Hickey and Nora Shourd already have their bags packed, ready for the moment they get an all-clear to travel and see them for the first time in nine months.

The moms were excited but cautious after Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said on state television late Monday that the Iranian government had ordered visas to be issued on humanitarian grounds. The three women said they don't want to count on making the trip to see their children until they have received official word they can pick up their travel documents.

"Yes we are excited, yes we are delighted at movement, delighted to think we will travel there," said Fattal, of suburban Philadelphia, the mother of 27-year-old Josh Fattal. "But we haven't got the word yet ourselves to come pick up those visas. We're in a truly holding our breath situation."

Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, all graduates of UC Berkeley, were arrested along the Iraqi border in July. Iran has accused the three friends of spying and having links to U.S. intelligence, and has said they would be brought to trial. Their families and the U.S. government have denied the spying accusations and called for their release.

Family members said they have grown more concerned in recent weeks after Swiss diplomats who visited the Americans on April 22 reported that two of them were in poor health.

"We're dying to see the kids, obviously," said Shourd's mother, Nora Shourd, of Oakland, California.

A U.S. State Department official said the Iranian Foreign Ministry has told the Swiss Embassy in Tehran -- which represents U.S. interests -- that the visas will be approved but that it was not yet clear when the actual visit would be approved. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Bauer's mother, Cindy Hickey of rural Pine City, Minnesota, said family members "have heard these rumblings before so we are being cautious with our optimism." But, she said, "I have to say I'm more hopeful than I've ever been."

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