2 Americans imprisoned in Iran plan to get married

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Shane Bauer wove an engagement ring out of threads from his shirt, then met his girlfriend in an unlikely place for a marriage proposal: the exercise yard of the Iranian prison where the couple has been locked up for nearly a year.

The mothers of both young Americans said Monday that their children will get married whenever they are released. They were taken into custody and accused of spying for the U.S. when they went for a hike last July along the border between Iraq and Iran.

The engagement “shows they’re continuing to have hope. They’re planning for the future, which is very good,” Bauer’s mother, Cindy Hickey of Pine City, Minn., told The Associated Press, two days after she and Sarah Shourd’s mother returned to the U.S. following a short visit to see their children.

They were joined on the journey by the mother of a third American, Josh Fattal, Bauer’s college roommate, who is also imprisoned and will be the couple’s best man.

Hickey said her son fashioned the crude engagement ring and proposed in January at Tehran’s Evin Prison.

Bauer and Fattal share a prison cell. Shourd is held separately but is allowed to see the two men for about an hour each day. On the day Bauer proposed, he asked Fattal to hang back from their daily meeting so he could pop the question, the mothers said.

The engagement offered a glimmer of good news to the hikers’ families after a disappointing visit in which the mothers had hoped to bring their children home.

Over the weekend, Iran’s intelligence minister said his country would be open to a prisoner swap if Washington makes a humanitarian gesture toward Iranians in U.S. custody comparable to the decision to permit the mothers’ visit.

“We’ve heard that before, and the thing is we have no control over it,” Hickey said of a potential prisoner exchange. “We can’t spend a whole lot of time thinking in that direction.”

The Americans’ case has also been complicated by ongoing tension between the two nations over Iran’s nuclear program.

Hickey said the greatest hope for the families is that Iran will release the three on humanitarian grounds.

The mothers had hoped to visit with Iranian officials while in Tehran, but were not granted access. Hickey said they are frustrated that, even after their own visit, their children have not yet been allowed to meet with a Tehran lawyer hired by the families.

Bauer, 27, and Shourd, 31, have been a couple for more than three years, Hickey said, and had been discussing marriage before their capture.

Prior to their detainment, they had been living together in Damascus, Syria, where Bauer was working as a freelance journalist and Shourd as an English teacher.

Fattal, an environmentalist and a fellow graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, came to visit them last July and the three went hiking in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

The mothers said Monday they were happy to see their children keeping busy — mostly through reading, studying and exercising. Still, Shourd’s mother said, all three show the burden of many months behind bars.

“There’s a heaviness, an anxiety to them,” said Nora Shourd, of Oakland, Calif. “I think it’s never far from their minds: ‘Just what in the world are we still doing here?'”

After returning from Iran, Hickey and Shourd planned to go back to Minnesota, where Shourd has been staying with Hickey in recent months. Laura Fattal headed home to suburban Philadelphia.

Fattal said she’s still hopeful that her son would be home for his 28th birthday on June 4.

“We keep hoping, and we are continually optimistic,” she said. “I don’t even like to think that 10 days from now they will still be in captivity.”