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Muhammad Ali joins U.S. Muslim leaders in appeal to Iran to free two Americans

posted 24 May 2011, 11:11 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 24 May 2011, 11:13 ]

Boxing great Muhammad Ali joins other prominent U.S. Muslims in a call for Iran's leader to release two Americans detained since 2009 on accusations of spying.

Boxing great Muhammad Ali, one of the most prominent U.S. Muslims, joined U.S. Muslim leaders on Tuesday (May 24) in an appeal to Iran's supreme leader to show mercy and free two Americans held on suspicion of espionage.

Lonnie Ali, wife of the 69-year-old former world heavyweight champion, spoke on his behalf during the event.

"We ask for their release, for their compassionate release and the mercy that they showed to Sarah, to show the same to Josh and to Shane, because they too are citizens of

the world. If they will look at them as the world looked at Muhammad when he was a young man in the same fashion, wanting to experience the world, experience people," she said during a news conference in Washington.

Ali wrote a letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in February, asking that "mercy" be shown to the two men.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were arrested in July 2009 along the Iraq border -- they said they may have inadvertently crossed into Iran while hiking -- in a case that has further strained relations between the United States and Iran, already frayed over Iran's nuclear program.

A third American, Sarah Shourd, was released on 500,000 U.S. dollars bail in September and returned home.

Speaking at the event, Shourd said the three Americans had made a pact to stay positive through their imprisonment and beyond.

"When I was still in prison, Shane and Josh and I often spoke about how determined we were to come out better people with our love for humanity strengthened by long isolation. That is still our goal and each day that passes is a day lost for the work that we want to do to create a more just planet," she said.

Family members of Fattal and Bauer said the men had been allowed to call home on Sunday (May 22) and shared news of their hunger strike.

"This is a humanitarian issue of the utmost urgency and it needs to be resolved. We heard recently in the phone calls that Josh and Shane have been on hunger strike for 17 consecutive days to receive letters. That breaks our hearts. We want them home and we want them home as soon as possible," Alex Fattal, Josh's brother, said.

Bauer and Fattal pleaded not guilty in a closed-door court appearance on February 6, according to state-run television.