Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked the Iranian government to release three detained American hikers Monday, following Iranian accusations that the trio engaged in espionage.
The three hikers, including Minnesota native Shane Bauer, have been in Iranian custody since July 31, when they may have accidentally crossed the border into Iran. Since then, the Iranian government has refused to allow the hikers to communicate with their families and has released minimal information about their detention.
"This is strictly a humanitarian case, and I urge Iranian officials not to politicize it or seek to use the three hikers as diplomatic pawns," Klobuchar said.
Bauer, along with Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal were hiking in Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region prior to their detention. Iran's state television said the Americans were arrested after they did not heed warnings from Iranian border guards.
A senior Iranian prosecutor accused the group of espionage earlier this month, the first signal that Tehran intends to put them on trial.
Klobuchar called the accusation "not only baseless but also completely at odds with whom Shane, Sarah and Josh are as individuals."
Bauer grew up in Onamia, Minnesota, 90 miles north of Minneapolis. His mother, Cindy Hickey, lives near Pine City in eastern Minnesota.
The former Minnesotan spent much of the last six years in the Middle East and North Africa working as a freelance journalist and photographer. His work has been published in the L.A. Times, San Francisco Chronicle, New American Media, The Christian Science Monitor and other news services.
Swiss officials have been interceding on the United States' behalf, as the U.S. lacks formal diplomatic relations with Iran. The hikers have met twice with Swiss consulate officials, but have been denied legal representation.
Klobuchar expressed concern for the families of the detained hikers. "As a mother, I can only imagine how difficult this ordeal must be for all of them," she said. "They have had no contact with their sons or their daughter, and yet I have been overwhelmed by their resolve."
The senator said she will continue to work with the hikers' families, the U.S. State Department, and Swiss officials to secure their release.