The mothers of three Americans suspected by Iran of spying met with their children during an emotional reunion Thursday in Tehran. State television showed Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal embrace their mothers, who they were seeing for the first time since their arrest in July.
The three were detained in northwestern Iran and accused of entering the country illegally and, later, the far more serious charge of spying. Relatives have said the three were hiking in Iraq's scenic, largely peaceful Kurdistan region and accidentally crossed the poorly marked border.
They have been held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison and the families were given little information on how they were faring.
Shourd told reporters that they have been treated well, but she said the detention has been difficult for her because she has been kept separate from the other two hikers.
Iran's foreign ministry said the mothers were granted short-term visas as a humanitarian gesture. The women were effusive in their appreciation.
"We already have been treated so beautifully and we will tell everyone about this reception," said Laura Fattal.
Bauer's mother, Cindy Hickey, said she was "very grateful to the Islamic Republic of Iran and the authorities for granting us our visa. We know that this is a great humanitarian act that they have given to us."
Swiss diplomats helped arrange the meeting, as Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Iran in the absence of formal American-Iranian relations. Those ties have been increasingly strained by the U.S. drive to place a new set of sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear program.
Analyst Ali Nourizadeh of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London said he believes the granting of visas is tied to a recent flurry of international activity, including a deal Iran reached with Turkey and Brazil on enriching uranium, and aimed at avoiding more sanctions.
"They are very worried about sanctions because sanctions this time [are] directed against the Revolutionary Guards and military forces and military industry," he said.
Before leaving for Tehran, the mothers told VOA's Persian Service they hoped to meet with Iranian officials during their stay and secure their children's release.