Mr. President, I come to the floor to call attention to the situation of three citizens of the United States—Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal—who have been detained by the Government of Iran for nearly 4 months.
One of these individuals, Shane Bauer, comes from my home State of Minnesota, and so the safe return of these three young Americans is of particular importance to me.
On July 31 of this year, Shane, Sarah, and Josh—who shared a common passion for travel and discovery—were on a hiking trip in a peaceful region in northern Iraq, when they reportedly accidentally strayed across the poorly marked border between Iraq and Iran and were surrounded by Iranian border guards.
Since then, Shane, Sarah, and Josh have been held in near isolation in a Tehran prison and have been allowed no contact with their families in the United States.
Despite repeated requests by the Swiss Government, which represents U.S. interests in Iran, the three have been denied regular consular access required by the Vienna Convention.
They have been denied repeated requests to be able to speak with their families via telephone, and they have been denied public information on any charges they may face.
In the 4 months they have been detained, the three have been allowed only two meetings with Swiss consular officials and have been denied due process and access to legal representation.
Even more alarming, Iranian officials have recently declared the three may be charged with espionage, a charge that is not only baseless but also completely at odds with who Shane, Sarah, and Josh are as individuals.
Shane, Sarah, and Josh made a simple mistake in accidentally crossing the border, and their continued detention is unwarranted and unreasonable.
Since the three were detained, I have gotten to know Shane’s mother Cindy and other members of the hikers’ families.
During our conversations, I have learned what a remarkable person Shane is and how he is dedicated through his work to bringing the world closer together through photo journalism.
Shane grew up in Onamia, MN, a small town in the central part of our State, and he graduated from the University of California at Berkeley.
Prior to being detained in Iran, Shane was living with Sarah in Damascus.
He has traveled around the Middle East as a free-lance journalist, reporting from Syria, Iraq, Darfur, Yemen, and Ethiopia.
His writing and award-winning photographs have been published in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and throughout the Middle East.
His latest trip with Sarah and Josh brought him to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, which is known for its scenic hikes among mountainous waterfalls.
This is hardly the background of someone who would deliberately enter Iran in hopes of committing espionage.
A few weeks ago, I met with Shane’s mom Cindy and members of Sarah and Josh’s families in my office in Washington.
As a mother, I can only imagine how difficult this ordeal must be for all of them.
They have had no contact with their sons or their daughter. Yet I have been overwhelmed by their resolve.
They are pursuing every avenue they can find to demonstrate to the Iranian Government that their children made a simple mistake and clearly deserve to be released.
I came away from our meeting even more committed to seeing that Cindy and Shane, along with Sarah and Josh and their families, are united as soon as possible.
As we all know, Iran is in the center of many pressing foreign policy challenges we currently face.
I, along with my colleagues, will address those, but Shane, Sarah, and Josh have absolutely nothing to do with these international fights.
They have nothing to do with what is going on in Iran or Iran’s differences with other countries. This is strictly a humanitarian case.
I urge Iranian officials not to politicize it or seek to use the three hikers as diplomatic pawns. There is no cause for their continued detention, and nothing will be gained by prolonging it any further.
Iran’s leaders should demonstrate the necessary compassion by immediately releasing Shane, Sarah, and Josh and allowing them to return home to their families.
In the meantime, they should at the very least allow them to speak to their families in the United States over the telephone.
I thank my friend, the Ambassador to Switzerland, and Swiss officials for their work in this area.
It has been 122 days since Shane, Sarah, and Josh were first detained; 122 days in captivity, apparently just for straying over a line on a map when they were on a hike.
We will continue to work with the families, with the State Department, and Swiss officials to do everything we can to bring Shane home to Minnesota.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.