BAGHDAD — Iraqi officials are pressing the Iranian government for information on the status of three American tourists who inadvertently crossed into Iranian territory while hiking through mountainous caves in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said that he appealed to authorities in Tehran as the tourists began their second week in captivity.
The three, whose families say that their crossing the border was purely accidental, may be charged with espionage. American officials and authorities in the Kurdish region say there is no relationship between them and American government operations. All of the parties have insisted that the matter “was a mere mistake.”
Zebari confirmed that he discussed the fate of the tourists in a meeting with Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi-Qomi on Aug. 6. He informed reporters that he “was told they were arrested for entering the country without appropriate visas and are currently being questioned." Zebari said he conveyed Iraq’s concern about the matter to Tehran’s ambassador.
The three are freelance journalist Shane Bauer, 27 and his friends Sara Shourd, 30, and Joshua Fattal, also 27. They were arrested July 31 while hiking through the mountainous Kurdish region of Iraq, which borders Iran.
Since their arrest, a fourth American hiker, author Shon Meckfessel, who felt unwell and left the hike, also insisted that his companions had merely committed "a simple and very unfortunate mistake" and were not trying to penetrate Iranian security.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Iran "to help us determine the whereabouts of the three missing Americans,” on Aug. 4.