Image: Cindy Hickey
Jeff Baenen  /  AP
Cindy Hickey is shown on Sept. 22, 2009, in her rural Pine City, Minn., home. She is holding a picture of her son, Shane Bauer, one of three Americans held in Iran the last 52 days after they were detained by the government for apparently crossing into the country while on a hiking trip in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen)
updated 9/22/2009 9:08:09 PM ET 2009-09-23T01:08:09

The families of the three American hikers detained in Iran said Tuesday they are holding out hope that the Iranian president will bring good news — or more — with him when he visits the United Nations this week.

Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal and Sarah Shourd have been held for 52 days since they apparently strayed into Iran while hiking in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region in July. Their case has become the latest source of friction between the U.S. and Iran.

Bauer's mother, Cindy Hickey, told The Associated Press that she and the other families, who are in daily touch with each other, have not received any information on their children other than that they're being held somewhere in Iran.

She said she hopes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will announce their release or at least provide some information about them on Wednesday when he speaks at the General Assembly in New York. Earlier Tuesday, Fattal's brother Alex said he and his mother hope Ahmadinejad will bring the trio with him.

"We have really got no indication about any direction that this might go," Hickey said in interview at her rural home near Pine City in eastern Minnesota, about a mile from the Wisconsin border. "Knowing our children and knowing they were on a hiking trip and they weren't doing anything other than camping, we're hoping this will come to a quick end. It's been real difficult not to be able to talk to him and hear his voice."

No diplomatic relations with Iran
The U.S. government has no diplomatic relations with Iran and has been working with the Swiss government to try to obtain information. State Department spokeswoman Megan Mattson said Tuesday the department had no indication Ahmadinejad would bring the three Americans with him.

U.S. officials and authorities in Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region say the backpackers crossed the poorly marked border by mistake while visiting a scenic part of Iraq on July 31. Iran's state television has said they were arrested after disregarding border guards' warnings.

Bauer, 27, a freelance journalist, spent his first 14 years in Onamia, Minn. before moving to San Leandro, Calif. to live with his father.

Hickey, 49, said her son expressed an interest in the wider world even as a young child, and as he grew older became particularly interested in the Middle East. He spoke fluent Arabic, and for the last year had been living in Damascus, Syria with Shourd, 31, his girlfriend of several years.

Fattal, 27, went to visit Bauer and Shourd, who teaches English, after traveling overseas on a teaching fellowship with the International Honors Program. All three are graduates of the University of California, Berkeley.

Hickey said she never worried much about her son as he traveled in the Mideast and other global hot spots. "He's a seasoned traveler, and he's always very careful," said Hickey, who lives with her husband on a farm with 19 Alaskan huskies.

Spent time in Yemen with her son
She spent time with her son in Yemen a few years ago and had planned to visit him in Damascus later this year. When they last spoke, about a week before he went to hike in Kurdistan, he even raised the possibility that mother and son might return to the scenic wilderness area.

The families have stressed that the three were merely hiking in Kurdistan, and Hickey said her son was not there as a journalist. Hickey said she's had many sleepless nights and has been frustrated by her lack of options. On her dining room table, next several pictures of her son, she set up cups for drinking tea — a habit she shares with her son. She won't use them until the day he comes home.

"Because I believe in what he does, I would not try to control what he does in the future," Hickey said. "But I want him home for a few days."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Ahmadinejad: Hikers ‘need to be punished’

  1. Closed captioning of: Ahmadinejad: Hikers ‘need to be punished’

    >> red flags .

    >>> but now to an nbc news exclusive. ann curry is in tehran, iran , this morning where she sat down for a wide-ranging interview with iranian president mahmoud ahmadinejad , his first since that country's disputed elections. ann , good morning to you.

    >> reporter: meredith , good morning. and we asked him about his government's crackdown on the protesters after the june election here and about the missing american hikers who have been detained here for more than a month and also about the international atomic energy agency 's concerns about iran 's nuclear ambitions. mr. president, you are speaking to us at a critical moment. iran has now agreed to negotiate in what could lead to the first significant talks between iran and the united states in nearly 30 years. what do you want from the united states ?

    >> translator: today a new arrangement should be put in place based on new principles so that the world is directed towards peace and tranquility. we have always believed in talking, in negotiating, and that is our logic. nothing has changed.

    >> reporter: you are a father. what do you say to the families who accuse this government of brutalities, torture, disappearances, of their sons and daughters?

    >> translator: well, you are expressing certain claims that, by and large, are being leveled by those who oppose the islamic republ republic. i'm not in a position to answer or to judge whatever you are claiming. but does your heart really and sincerely go out to the people? are you really -- is that really the truth?

    >> reporter: i know people, mr. president.

    >> translator: i don't believe that.

    >> reporter: i know people, mr. president, who i believe were innocent, who were tortured.

    >> translator: it's possible.

    >> reporter: in prisons.

    >> translator: i don't have such information. people tortured in prisons. maybe you have more specific information. our judiciary, in accordance with the law, will deal with this matter.

    >> reporter: i must ask you about americans who are in custody here in iran , specifically the parents of three young hikers, shane bauer, sara shood and joshua fatale. you knew about their case. are asking for compassion. in a letter to you, they are going to be asking for you to bring their children on your plane to the united states as a humanitarian gesture. would you consider this?

    >> translator: well, i'm not happy that they have been arrested. but these individuals had violated our borders. and in accordance with the laws, they need to be punished. but i ask you, five iranian diplomats for two years now, well, they were -- they were in prison by u.s. troops . they had not violated the law. they were going about their diplomatic business and life in erbil in iraq. u.s. troops in iraq, without any documentation, arrested them. the u.s. government , is it going to strike a humanitarian posture by releasing them? will it release them? of course. under an equal condition, we are ready to engage in reciprocal action. the family of the u.s. citizens which are in prison here in iran , i sympathize with them. they need to know that these individuals have trampled -- have violated the law. however, i'm going to do my best for the iranians who are in u.s. prisons to be set free and for these individuals, u.s. citizens here, to be set free as well. i am hoping that this will happen as soon as possible.

    >> reporter: it is unclear if the five iranian diplomats he was referring to are the same ones who were already released in july. and meredith , in reference to the stability -- or rather the instability of the world today, president ahmadinejad said, quote, if mr. obama seriously is looking to bring about change, we will assist. we are hoping he will succeed. meredith ?

    >> all right, ann , thank you very much. you can read a full transcript of ann 's interview on todayshow.com. and you can watch that interview in its entirety this sunday at 1:00 p.m . eastern time on msnbc.

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