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Released hiker describes friends' abuse in Iranian prison

By the CNN Wire Staff
Shane Bauer, left, and Josh Fattal have been detained in Iran since their arrest during a 2009 hiking trip near the Iranian border.
Shane Bauer, left, and Josh Fattal have been detained in Iran since their arrest during a 2009 hiking trip near the Iranian border.
  • Sarah Shourd says Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were abused
  • They were beaten and pushed down stairs, she says
  • The three hikers were arrested in July 2009 when they wandered into Iran
  • Shourd was released last year but the two men remain jailed

(CNN) -- Iranian prison guards abused and assaulted two U.S. hikers who have been detained in the Islamic Republic since 2009, according to their friend Sarah Shourd, who was released last year.

In an interview with the BBC this week, Shourd described the abuse that Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer experienced before Shourd was released on $500,000 bail in September, according to a statement released by the families Thursday.

A guard at Tehran's notorious Evin Prison was furious that Fattal took extra food and pushed him down the stairs, Shourd said. The guard repeatedly threw Bauer against a wall of his cell until his head began bleeding.

She said the three had feared that they would be executed soon after they were arrested, when a guard began cocking his gun.

The two men are allowed limited communication these days, and their families have no way of knowing their condition.

"My worst fear is that they're not safe," Shourd said. "They don't have consular access, they're not allowed to see their lawyer, and we fear the worst."

In July 2009, Shourd, 32, Fattal, 29, and Bauer, 28, were hiking in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish area along the border with Iran when they were arrested by Iranian police. Shourd said they accidentally strayed across the border. Iranian authorities say the three crossed into Iran illegally.

2010: Shourd talks captivity in Iran
2010: Sarah Shourd: 'I still feel numb'
  • Sarah Shourd
  • Joshua Fattal
  • Shane Bauer
  • Iran

Twice, they feared for their lives as guards loaded them into a vehicle to a mysterious location and cocked their weapons, Shourd said. Terrified, they held hands, cried out and begged for their lives.

Even though Shourd is free, she, along with the families of Fattal and Bauer, remains focused on helping her friends to freedom. Shourd and the families have begun fasting in an effort to show their solidarity and support for the imprisoned men.

Fattal and Bauer started their own hunger strike when they were no longer allowed to receive family letters. They have been allowed only three brief phone calls to their families; the most recent was May 22.

Fattal and Bauer were supposed to attend a trial hearing May 11 but never showed. Their absence has not been explained by Iranian officials.

"We are shocked and angry at the way Shane and Josh are being treated and the terrible incidents that Sarah has told us about only heighten our grave concern for their physical and mental welfare," said the family statement.

"The people who are holding Shane and Josh are breaking Iran's laws ... and behaving shamefully. This nightmare must end and Shane and Josh must be released."