Hikers' relatives plead to Iran for 'compassion'

DVBP624 4 P 0313 USA /AFP-VR68 Iran-US-hikers-trial-diplomacy-families Hikers' relatives plead to Iran for 'compassion' NEW YORK, Aug 21, 2011 (AFP) - The relatives of imprisoned Americans Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal on Sunday urged the Iranian government to show "compassion" and free the two men, one day after their eight-year prison sentences were made known. "Of the 751 days of Shane and Josh's imprisonment, yesterday and today have been the most difficult for our families. Shane and Josh are innocent and have never posed any threat to the Islamic Republic of Iran, its government or its people," the men's family members said. "We are encouraged that the Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, has said he hopes the case will proceed in a manner that will result in Shane and Josh's freedom," the statement said. "We appeal to the authorities in Iran to show compassion and allow them to return home to our families without delay," they wrote, after Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi on Sunday confirmed the men's prison sentence for illegal entry and espionage. "We also ask everyone around the world who trusts in the benevolence of the Iranian people and their leaders to join us in praying that Shane and Josh will now be released," the men's family members wrote. Bauer and Fattal, both 29, were arrested with fellow American Sarah Shourd, 32, on the unmarked border between Iran and Iraq on July 31, 2009. Shourd was freed on medical grounds in September and returned to the United States. The trio claim they were hiking in Iraq's northern province of Kurdistan when they unwittingly strayed into the Islamic republic. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday she was "deeply disappointed" over the eight-year prison sentence given to two Americans, and called for their immediate release. bd/sg/jm AFP 211421 GMT AUG 11