World-renowned scholar and MIT professor Noam Chomsky released a video message calling on Iran to release two Americans detained on suspicions of espionage.
Three Americans hiking along the Iran-Iraq border were detained in Tehran on charges of espionage in 2009. One of them, Sarah Shourd, was released last September. The other two, her fiance Shane Bauer and their friend Josh Fattal, have remained in Iran's custody.
Chomsky called the two "extraordinary young people" who have "dedicated themselves to advocating for social and environmental justice," and who "truly embody the spirit of humanitarianism."
Chomsky's endorsement carries a unique weight as he is known to Iranians as a vociferous critic of US foreign policy in the region, making him particularly unlikely to vouch for the two if they were potential American spies.
"I hope that they'll be released without a trial," Chomsky said. "If there is one, I'd be happy to testify on their good record and their dedication to worthy and important causes."
President Barack Obama said in July that the hikers "have never worked for the United States government."
"They are simply open-minded and adventurous young people who represent the best of America, and of the human spirit. They are teachers, artists, and advocates for social and environmental justice. They have never had any quarrel with the government of Iran, and have great respect for the Iranian people," Obama said.
Chomsky lamented that Bauer and Fattal have "been imprisoned for much too long," "been denied due process" and "been subjected to extreme psychological stress."
"I would finally like to appeal once again to the Iranian authorities to take the just and compassionate step and to free them without any further delay," said Chomsky.
This video is from YouTube, uploaded by user dwrdernest84.