Three American citizens being held in Iran on charges of illegal entry have phoned their families for the first time since they were taken into custody.
According to a report by “Free the Hikers” a support group based in New York, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal have called their families from their detention center in Tehran.
“It was a tremendous relief to hear their voices at last and know that Shane, Sarah and Josh are keeping well and staying strong,” a joint statement from the hikers’ families said on Wednesday.
The “Free the Hikers” statement added that the calls were “positive signal that their long detention may soon be over” for the new Iranian year starting March 21.
“We appeal to the Iranian authorities to show compassion and allow our families to be reunited in joy and happiness as well,” it added.
The three Americans were detained on July 31 for ‘illegal entry’ into Iran through a mountainous area of Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region.
Kordestan Province’s deputy governor for political-security affairs, Iraj Hassanzadeh, had announced that the three detainees were traveling on Syrian and Iraqi visas.
Iraqi media at the time reported that Colonel Anwar Haj Omar of the Halabja police force in northern Iraq had linked the three Americans to the Central Intelligence Agency.
In November, Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi said the three were “charged with espionage.”