NEW YORK - The mothers of three American hikers imprisoned in Iran for 10 months left Tuesday to visit them and to try to persuade Iranian authorities to release their children.
The women hope their case ends like others in Iran over the past two years where the government has detained then freed foreigners.
Their children - Sarah Shourd, 31; her boyfriend, Shane Bauer, 27; and their friend Josh Fattal, 27 - have been held in Iran since July when they were arrested along the Iraqi border. Nora Shourd, Cindy Hickey and Laura Fattal, who have been granted visas, said they will ask Iranian leaders to release their children from prison.
"We're going over as mothers to ask for humanitarian relief and we're very confident," Hickey said from a hotel in midtown Manhattan before leaving for Kennedy Airport. "We want to bring our kids home."
"I'm very excited," she added. "I keep envisioning being able to give Shane a big hug. We're doing everything we can to bring him home."
The families say that their children were hiking in the scenic Kurdistan region of northern Iraq and, if they crossed the border, it was by accident. Iran has accused the trio of spying, but has not brought them to trial or publicly charged them with a crime.
Their trip comes as the United States announced it has agreed with China, Russia and other major powers on a proposal for "strong" new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a Senate committee that the five permanent members of the U.S. Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. - and Germany would send a new draft sanctions resolution to the entire council later Tuesday, capping months of diplomatic maneuvering and painstaking negotiations.
The United States and Iran have not had formal diplomatic relations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But several cases of foreigners held by Iran and later released could provide hope to the mothers of the hikers.
Last week, Iran freed a young French academic convicted of provoking unrest and spying. Clotilde Reiss, 24, had been held for more than 10 months, accused of joining protests, gathering information, taking photos and sending them abroad during unrest that broke out after June's disputed presidential elections in Iran. Her supporters said she was targeted for an innocuous e-mail to friends describing the events unfolding around her.
Last year, a graduate student imprisoned for a month in Iran and barred from leaving the country for nearly a year returned home to Los Angeles. Esha Momeni, 29, was charged with acting against Iran's national security and held mainly in solitary confinement after conducting research on the Iranian women's rights movement.
An Iranian-American journalist, Roxana Saberi, who was arrested in January 2009, convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison, was released on an appeal in May 2009. Another American journalist, Haleh Esfandiari, was arrested in May 2007, accused of conspiring to overthrow the government, and freed three months later.
Nora Shourd said she worried especially about the effect that near-solitary confinement may be having on her always social daughter. With no one to talk to, Sarah had become seriously depressed, Nora Shourd says she was told by the Swiss diplomats who visited the trio last month. The diplomats also reported that Sarah was suffering a serious gynecological condition, while Bauer had a stomach ailment.
The mothers said their children have not been allowed access to their Iranian lawyer and have spoken to relatives only once by telephone, on March 9 for just a few minutes.
Hickey lives in Pine City, Minn., Shourd is from Oakland, Calif., and Fattal is from suburban Philadelphia.