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Vigils for 3 American Hikers Held in Iran

Vigils will be held across the country tomorrow for three Americans who are being detained in Iran.

It's been two months since the group of hikers was taken into custody by Iranian authorities after they apparently crossed the border into that country unknowingly.

Sarah Shourd, 31, was teaching English in Damascus, Syria, where she was living with her boyfriend, Shane Bauer, 27, a writer and photojournalist.

Their friend and fellow UC Berkeley alum Josh Fattal, 27, was visiting when the trio decided to take a hiking trip to northern Iraq, near the Iranian border.

It's a mountainous region controlled by the Kurds, much safer than the rest of Iraq, and it is becoming increasingly popular with tourists.

But on July 31, the Americans were detained by Iranian border guards, who declared that the hikers had crossed into that country illegally.

Last week in New York, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an AP reporter he would request the case be expedited and examined "with maximum leniency."

It's a sign of hope for three families who have yet to hear from their loved ones, and are wondering when they might see them again.

Despite Ahmadinejad's prior remarks - that the Americans would be imprisoned until the United States released imprisoned Iranians - on CBS' "The Early Show" today Josh's brother, Alex Fattal, said he was hopeful given Ahmadinejad's recent comments on the case.

"We take great comfort in that," he told Rodriguez. "We're holding vigils tomorrow throughout the country at 14 locations, and what we really hope for is that those vigils will turn into welcome home parties. That's our greatest hope."

Alex was joined by Josh's mother, Laura Fattal, and Sarah's mother, Nora Shourd. Anchor Maggie Rodriguez asked them, "As mothers, what do you worry about?"

"We worry about their day-to-day, you know, like if they're well and if they're healthy, if they're comfortable, how they're taking it mentally," said Nora Shourd. "We just worry about it all the time."

"It is very difficult," said Laura Fattal. "It is a day-by-day difficult situation. We all know Shane, Sarah and Josh are composed individuals, they're calm individuals, and we get reassurance from that. But of course we want to hear from them. We want to hear their voices."

Rodriguez asked whether they were worried if escalating tensions between Iran and the United States might prove to be a setback for obtaining a release of their loved ones.

"No, we're not concerned about that," said Alex.

"I think in general if you listen to the language from President Ahmadinejad, it's very positive and it seemed to us like it got more positive the more he said," said Nora Shourd. "So we are very encouraged by it."

"President Ahmadinejad is a father himself," said Laura Fattal, "and he has shown and said he has sympathy for our case. So our case is not a political issue."

Laura Fattal said they have been working with the U.S. State Department to try to expedite their release: "They have been a tremendous asset to us."

"There's a lot of people who have taken an interest in Shane, Sarah and Josh, and helping behind the scenes, directly and indirectly," said Alex Fattal, "and for all of those efforts, we're extremely grateful. That support is across the board and I think that's what we'll see tomorrow in these 14 vigils across the country [are] friends who are supportive and concerned.

"Hopefully, all that positive energy will radiate out to Tehran."

Rodriguez asked if Bill Clinton, who helped win release of two American journalists held captive in North Korea, had been contacted for possibly helping in this situation.

"Each case is different," said Alex Fattal. "Our case is very different than Euna Lee and Laura Ling's case," adding, "We'll take whatever works."

Vigils for Sarah, Shane and Josh will be held September 30 in Boston, New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Worcester, Mass., Cottage Grove, Ore., and several locations in California. For more information go to freethehikers.org.

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