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Patrick Condon, Associated Press, Published November 23 2010

Jailed hikers’ families say case is taking too long

MINNEAPOLIS – Family members of the two Americans still held in Iran on espionage charges called the postponement of their trial until Feb. 6 an unwanted delay and stressed they were not looking forward to spending a second holiday season without their loved ones.

“It’s unbearable for my parents. It’s unbearable for all our families, and it needs to end,” Alex Fattal said Monday. His brother, Josh, along with Shane Bauer and Bauer’s fiancee, Sarah Shourd, were arrested by Iran near its border with Iraq in July 2009 and accused of espionage. Bauer and Fattal remain jailed in Tehran more than two months after Shourd was released on medical grounds.

Shourd and the families say the three were on an innocent hike, but Iran accuses them of espionage – and the case has become a point of confrontation in the troubled U.S.-Iran relationship.

Masoud Shafiei, the Tehran-based attorney representing the Americans, said Sunday that he was notified of the Feb. 6 trial date – two weeks after a previous trial date of Nov. 6 was abandoned.

Bauer’s mother, Cindy Hickey, said family members don’t put much confidence in new trial dates since the case has seen so many delays. Hickey and Alex Fattal both said the families are particularly dreading the advent of another holiday season without their loved ones.

“It’s taking a huge toll on everyone,” said Hickey, who lives near Pine City, Minn. She said her son’s younger sisters have both suffered recent health problems they believe are caused or exacerbated by stress.

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