Rallies Held for Detained Hikers

Photo: Margaret Roberts leads a rally for the imprisoned hikers in San Francisco on Saturday July 31, 2010.
Teresa Mathew/Photo
Margaret Roberts leads a rally for the imprisoned hikers in San Francisco on Saturday July 31, 2010.

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Photo: Demonstrators marched in San Francisco on Saturday to protest the continued imprisonment of the three UC Berkeley alumni in Iran.   

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SAN FRANCISCO - One year after three UC Berkeley alumni were detained while hiking near the Iran-Iraq border, about 45 of their friends and supporters marched through San Francisco's Mission District Saturday, calling for their release.

The protest was part of a series of demonstrations being stagged across the globe this past weekend by the friends and family of Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd.

Their mothers attended a rally in New York on Saturday, while similar events were held in Seattle, Paris, Houston, New Delhi and Toronto.

On July 31, 2009, while hiking near the Iran-Iraq border, the trio - who have been accused of espionage and entering Iran illegally - was taken into custody by Iranian police. This year, a June 23 article by The Nation magazine reported that the hikers were actually seized in Iraq.

"Our friends are not spies," said 2009 UC Berkeley alumna Jennifer Miller, an organizer of the protest and a friend of the hikers. "They have been unjustly detained."

President Barack Obama issued a statement Friday, saying the three hikers have never worked for the U.S. government and have been detained unjustly, while six U.S. senators - including Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. - announced a Congressional Resolution urging the hikers be "immediately and unconditionally released." But some protesters said the government could be doing more.

"The choices the American government has made in the Middle East have led to this situation," said Tegra Fisk, an organizer of the demonstration and a friend of the hikers. "Our government needs to be doing more to ensure the freedom of their citizens and doing less to promote situations that got our friends into this situation in the first place."

While Iran has not entered formal negotiations with the U.S., Iranian officials have suggested they may be willing to release the hikers in exchange for the release of some Iranian prisoners currently held in the U.S.

Another protester and friend of the hikers, Ethan Rafal, said Iran's behavior has political ramifications and that Iranian government officials are discouraging the protesters' peaceful efforts.

"There is a political consequence by holding our friends, and they will have to reckon with that," he said. "It's very difficult when you devote hundreds of thousands of hours to get your friends free to be involved in any sort of peace process."

After several demonstrators spoke at the corner of Mission and 16th, protestors marched down Mission District sidewalks to Mission Dolores Park, where many described the hikers as victims of Iran's political motivations.

Protesters also voiced concerns for the trio's health. According to Miller, Shourd is facing mental health problems after having spent most of the year in solitary confinement.


Contact Matt Burris at [email protected]

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