Muhammad Ali asks Iran’s leader to show mercy on American hikers

Three-time heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali sent a letter to Ayatollah 
Sayyid
 Ali 
Khamenei urging compassion.
March 16th, 2011
08:06 PM ET

Muhammad Ali made an impassioned plea as a “brother in Islam” to Iran’s supreme leader for the release of two American hikers who have been held in the country since July 2009.

Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were detained along with friend Sarah Shourd on accusations of spying and trespassing after they allegedly strayed across an unmarked border into Iran while hiking in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Fattal and Bauer’s espionage trial began in February without Shourd, who was released on bail in September 2010 because of a medical condition and immediately left the country. She has not responded to a court summons to return to stand trial, and authorities have said she will be tried in absentia.

In a brief letter to Ayatollah 
Sayyid
 Ali 
Khamenei, Ali, a devout Muslim, asked the Supreme Leader to show the same compassion to Fattal and Bauer that was bestowed upon Shourd.

“I 
am 
humbled 
by 
the 
compassion 
you 
gave 
to 
their 
young 
female 
friend
 Sarah 
Shourd, 
by 
allowing 
her 
to 
return 
to 
her 
family. 

I 
ask 
the 
same
 mercy 
and 
compassion 
be 
given 
to 
them 
as 
well,” he wrote.

“
My 
last 
visit 
to 
Tehran 
was 
some 
years 
ago 
but 
I 
remember 
it 
as 
if 
it
 were 
yesterday. 

The 
people 
were 
so 
kind 
and 
beautiful. 
Most 
Americans
 don’t 
know 
how 
warm 
and 
welcoming 
the 
Iranian 
people 
can 
be. 

One
 day, 
I 
hope 
I 
am 
able 
to 
return 
to 
Tehran 
to 
stand, 
greet 
and 
be 
among 
my 
Iranian 
brothers 
and 
sisters 
once 
again,” he continued.

“
Please
 show
 the 
world 
the 
compassion 
I 
know 
you
 have 
in
 your 
heart.
”

The three-time world heavyweight champion changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali after he joined the Nation of Islam in the 1960s. He converted to Islam in 1975.

The men’s families released a statement thanking Ali for his support.

“We are deeply grateful to Mr. Ali and the many other people around the world who know that Shane and Josh absolutely do not deserve to be in prison. We hope and pray that Iran hears this appeal and responds with compassion. It is time for this nightmare to end.”

All three have pleaded not guilty. Fattal and Bauer, both 28, are being held in Iran’s notorious Evin prison. Their trial will resume May 11, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported Sunday, citing the head of the Justice Ministry

~ by fredfelleman on March 16, 2011.

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