The Associated Press reports (via Washingtonpost.com) Ahmadinejad has hinted at the possible release of three jailed US hikers… in exchange for Iranians currently serving time in US prisons.
“There are some talks under way to have an exchange, if it is possible,” he said. “Recently they (the U.S.) have sent messages, we answered to bring them (the Iranians), to bring these people (the hikers). We are hopeful that all prisoners to be released.”
No specific Iranian prisoners were mentioned by Ahmadinejad, but he had previously released a list of 11 Iranians believed to be detained in the US. The list, released in December, includes a nuclear scientist that had disappeared in Saudi Arabia, an Iranian arrested in Canada on charges of trying to obtain nuclear technology, and a former Defense Ministry official who vanished in Turkey.
“I had said I would help in releasing them, but the attitude of some of U.S. officials damages the job,” said Ahmadinejad. “There are a large number of Iranians in prison in the U.S. They have abducted some of our citizens in other countries.”
Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal are all UC Berkeley graduates that were detained 6 months ago on accounts of “suspicious aims” while hiking in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region. Their families state that the three accidentally crossed the border into Iran, but Ahmadinejad disputes this, stating that there were “indications they knew they were crossing into Iran.”
In late December, Iran’s foreign minister said that the three US detainees would be tried in court, but failed to mention any specific charge or when the trial would actually begin.