4th Berkeley hiker honors friends in Iran

December 22, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The common cold kept a California man out of an Iranian jail. Shon Meckfessel was sick the day his three friends were arrested and accused of crossing the border illegally. On Tuesday night he spoke at a vigil for the UC Berkeley hikers still held in Iran.

"We didn't want to be anywhere near any kind of risky area. We were quite cautious," said Meckfessel.

Regardless, in hindsight Shon Meckfessel admits he and his friends should have been more cautious while hiking in Kurdistan near the Iranian border.

"The border is on the map, but Ahkmed Ahwa is not on the map. So we didn't realize what direction we were going," said Meckfessel.

Meckfessel, who grew up in Sacramento, was sick and wasn't with Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal when they were arrested by Iranian police. Iran accuses them of espionage and plans to prosecute them.

ABC's Diane Sawyer asked Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "Are you still going to do your best to set the hikers free?" He replied, "Yes, but I have a question for you. How do you know they have accidentally crossed into Iran?"

"It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. We know our kids," said Nora Shourd, Sarah's mother.

Nora, from Oakland, and other supporters are making a humanitarian appeal. She was cautious not to talk about the political ramifications. However, it is hard to ignore that the hikers have become political pawns in an international standoff.

Diplomatic ties between the two countries have been severed and the hikers have not been heard from for three months.

"Certainly it's regrettable. Sure, I feel responsibility. I'm sure they do. All of us regret this really terrible complicated situation that's come about," said Meckfessel.

"The prospect of spending the holiday season without them gives us great pain. We therefore ask the Iranian authorities to find in their hearts to allow our children to return home before the New Year," said Nora.

The last correspondence came from Josh Fattal.

"Josh sent a brief message to his family that ended with a lyric from a Bob Dylan song, "Any day now, I shall be released," said Nora. "Three months later we continue to hope and pray that that day will come soon."


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