However, no date set for families to visit three hikers arrested along Iraqi border in July.
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Visas have been approved for the families of three American hikers jailed in Iran but no date has been set for the families to visit them, a mother of one of the hikers said Wednesday.Nora Shourd told The Associated Press that family of 27-year-old Josh Fattal picked up the travel documents from the Iranian interest section in Washington, D.C., so the visas are "finally in our hands.""We're really over-the-top excited about this," Shourd said. "I can barely breathe this morning. We've waited for this so long. And it's going to be wonderful to see these kids, absolutely wonderful."Shourd's daughter, Sarah, 31, has been held with Fattal and Shane Bauer, 27, since the three were arrested along the Iraqi border in July.Nora Shourd, of Oakland, California, said the families don't know yet when they'll leave and how long the visit will be."A lot of it is determined basically by the Iranians themselves," she said. "But I have every reason to believe it's going to be fairly soon."Bauer's mother, Cindy Hickey of rural Pine City, Minnesota, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment. Fattal's brother, Alex, said by e-mail the family would comment later.Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said on state television this week that the Iranian government had ordered visas to be issued on humanitarian grounds.Iran has accused the three friends of spying. Their families and the US government have denied the spying accusations and called for their release.The three hikers are all graduates of the University of California at Berkeley. They have been held in Iran for 285 days, and family members said recently they were growing more concerned after Swiss diplomats who visited them on April 22 reported that two of them were in poor health.Shourd was said to be suffering a serious gynecological condition and Bauer a stomach ailment.Iran has not brought the three to trial or made clear if formal charges have been filed. In February, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed swapping them for Iranians he says are jailed in the US, raising fears that the three are being held as bargaining chips.Bauer, a freelance journalist, had been hired to cover the Kurdish elections in Iraq, but his family said the hiking trip was a vacation. He and Shourd were dating and had been living in Damascus, Syria. She taught English and had written for various online publications. Fattal went to visit them after traveling overseas on a teaching fellowship.
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