The families of three American hikers detained in Iran say a new report indicating Iranian forces arrested the hikers in neighboring Iraq raises "deeply troubling questions" about the arrest of the hikers and their continued detention by Iranian authorities.

In a Thursday statement, the families say the report in The Nation magazine has elevated concerns about the hikers' arrests and why they have been held in Iran for nearly a year "without due process in violation of Iranian and international law."

The Nation says it located two witnesses in the Iraqi border town of Zalem who said Iranian security forces crossed into Iraq and seized the hikers.

Listen to Persian News Network's interview with Esther Kaplan:

Esther Kaplan, an investigative editor at The Nation Institute, tells VOA Persian the witnesses followed the hikers out of curiosity and saw Iranian police arrest them.  

She says the witnesses claimed the Iranians first waved at the hikers in a "threatening" manner and then one officer fired shots into the air when the hikers ignored their calls.

Iranian authorities arrested Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal in late July on suspicion of spying.

Family members of the hikers have said they may have accidentally strayed across the border.

The Nation says its report is based on a five-month investigation conducted in conjunction with the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.   It says the witnesses are residents of a Kurdish village who declined to be identified because of fear of retaliation.

On Thursday, State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. had no evidence to support claims the Americans were arrested in Iraq.  However, Toner repeated a U.S. call for Iran to immediately release the hikers and other Americans "unjustly detained."

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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