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Published May 19, 2011, 12:03 AM

Moms of U.S. Hikers Held in Iran Start Hunger Strike

The mothers of two U.S. hikers held in Iran for nearly two years said they are starting a hunger strike Thursday in solidarity with their sons, whom they believe are fasting while awaiting trial on espionage charges.

By: Jeff Baenen , Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The mothers of two U.S. hikers held in Iran for nearly two years said they are starting a hunger strike Thursday in solidarity with their sons, whom they believe are fasting while awaiting trial on espionage charges.

The announcement from the mothers comes after Iranian authorities last week delayed the trial of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 28, without explanation.

Bauer's mother, Cindy Hickey of Pine City, Minn., told The Associated Press that she and Fattal's mother, Laura Fattal, believe their sons are fasting. So the mothers plan to do the same and will drink only water to show support for their sons.

"We're going to do this as long as we can," Hickey said Wednesday.

She said others, including Bauer's fiancée, Sarah Shourd, 32, will join the "rolling" hunger strike on Saturday.

"When we can't do it anymore, we'll hand it off," Hickey said.

Shourd, Bauer and Fattal were arrested along the Iraq-Iran border in July 2009. Shourd was allowed to return to the U.S. last year on bail. Iranian officials ordered her back to Tehran for the trial, but she declined to return.

"It is a dangerous thing," Hickey, 50, said of the mothers' plans to fast. "It's 21 months (that Bauer and Fattal have been gone), we don't have them home. We need people to stand with us. We're desperate. ... It affects our lives in a huge way, all of us, and we need for it to end."

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of Hickey and Laura Fattal's visit to Tehran, the only time they have seen their sons since their arrest on July 31, 2009. It was one year ago Saturday that the mothers, including Shourd's mother, Nora Shourd, who also was on the trip, left Iran without their children. Sarah Shourd, who got engaged to her boyfriend Bauer after their arrest, was released in September.

The three say they were hiking in Iraq's northern Kurdish region and that any crossing into Iran was inadvertent. They deny the espionage charges.

"Whoever is to blame for preventing our sons' release is bringing shame on Iran. Shane and Josh have been denied justice and compassion for too long," Laura Fattal said in a news release announcing the hunger strike.

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