An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman says three American hikers detained by Tehran for a year are being investigated for breaching the security of the Islamic Republic. The charges appear to be in response to recent U.S. pleas they be released.
Iran is repeating charges three young American hikers entered the country illegally last year and should stand trial for doing so. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast alluded to previous allegations the three were "spies", claiming they may have "intentionally" harmed Iranian security.
He also denounced what he called "political pressure" and "media shenanigans" in reference to recent demonstrations to release the hikers in a number of U.S. and European cities.
Iranian government radio also quoted Mehmanparast as saying the United States is holding "significant numbers" of Iranians in its prisons for what he called "politically motivated" offenses.
In an interview last year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demanded the United States "trade" the three hikers for Iranian prisoners he said it holds. The United states has denied holding any Iranians for "political" offenses.
Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Iran to free the three hikers. Clinton said Tehran should "do the right thing" and release them, and called the first anniversary of their capture a "tragic" moment.
The mothers of the three hikers, Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, led a weekend demonstration in New York to protest their children's capture by Iranian border-guards on July 31, 2009. Iran claims the hikers entered its territory, but several Kurdish eyewitnesses say they were captured in Iraq.
Nora Shourd, who is the mother of hiker Sarah Shourd, complained during a public protest near the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York that Iranian officials are playing hard to get:
"This is the Iranian Mission, the Iranian Ambassador is up there somewhere," she said. "It has been very difficult for us all along to talk to anyone in the Iranian government, impossible. This is as close as we can get."
Cindy Hickey, mother of hiker Shane Bauer, made a more emotional appeal to Iranian leaders, asking them to "open their hearts" and not to act for "political" reasons:
"This is an unjust detention. You have nothing on our children. There [have] been no charges," she said. "Everything is being dealt with in a very unjust way. We want you to open your hearts, release our kids and get them out of politics."
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman appeared to answer them in his remarks, insisting Iran has "no diplomatic relations with the United States," but that the three were "being treated humanely" and in accordance with "international norms." The mothers of the hikers deny those claims, saying they have been held without being charged and without being able to consult their attorneys.