With Iranian President in U.S., Senators Call For Release of American Hikers

As Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends a nuclear conference at the United Nations in New York City (the U.S. granted him a visa) and as Mother's Day approaches, a group of senators is calling for the release of three American hikers detained in Tehran since July 31, 2009.

"We say to President Ahmadinejad...enough is enough," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, who called on the Iranian president to release the young Americans, Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, and Sarah Shourd, who are said to have entered Iran as they were hiking in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, known for its stunning vistas and waterfalls. "It is essential that Sarah, Shane, and Josh be allowed to call home immediately," Boxer pleaded, saying, "It would mean so much to the mothers, particularly this week."

The three Americans have been imprisoned without formal charges or access to legal council, though the regime has accused them of spying. They were permitted a consular visit more than a week ago with the Swiss Ambassador in Iran. The senators noted, however, that the hikers had only been allowed one phone call with their families so far in their 9-month detention.

Sen. Al Franken, D-MN, said, "We call on the Iranian government to make a humanitarian gesture separate from all the political strife," and noted that "these families are suffering."

Franken, joined also by Sens Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, Bob Casey, D-PA, and Arlen Specter, D-PA, said members had been briefed by intelligence officials and that he was confident "they were not spying." The senators also read from statements given to them by the hikers' mothers detailing what Mother's Day would be like without their children.

Specter charged, "We know they are pawns in an intl struggle," but said he thought "it would do the Iranian government a lot of good" with the international community, which is currently contemplating harsh sanctions against he totalitarian regime for its nuclear weapons program, to release the imprisoned youths.