NEW YORK — The mothers of three Americans jailed in Iran returned to the United States on Saturday, pained to leave their children behind yet heartened to find they're being treated well and are "in reasonable health."
At a brief news conference at John F. Kennedy International Airport shortly after they returned to New York, Cindy Hickey thanked the Iranians for allowing the women to see the three and said they were disappointed they could not return with their children.
"The pain is almost more than we can bear," Hickey said, but "we will forever savor the precious moments we were able to spend with our children."
She that the mothers "hope and pray that the Iranian authorities will now find it in their hearts to resolve our children's case and release them without further delay."
Hickey and Nora Shourd left the airport terminal holding hands in support of each other, while the third woman, Laura Fattal, walked arm-in-arm with her son.
The detained Americans — Sarah Shourd, 31; her boyfriend, Shane Bauer, 27; and their friend Josh Fattal, 27 — have been held in Iran since July, when they were arrested along the Iraqi border. Iran has accused them of espionage; their families say that the three were hiking in Iraq's largely peaceful mountainous northern Kurdish region and that if they crossed the border, it was accidental.
The women told family members they had spent a total of about 10 hours with their children over two days in Iran.
On Saturday, they said their children "are being well treated and we're extremely relieved to see for ourselves that they're in reasonable health," said Nora Shourd. However, "the emotional strain on them and the loneliness is very difficult and they told us they just cannot understand why they're still in jail."
The Swiss ambassador in Iran said there were no negotiations with Iranian officials to release the three. Washington and Tehran have no diplomatic relations, and Switzerland handles U.S. interests in Iran.
Asked whether there were any positive signs from Iranian authorities, Agosti told APTN: "Well, they were very generous in the time that the allotted the mothers to be with their children. So it was a good gesture."