AFP: Three US hikers who entered Iran illegally were caught in a "sensitive military zone", Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told AFP on Friday. COPENHAGEN (AFP) – Three US hikers who entered Iran illegally were caught in a "sensitive military zone", Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told AFP on Friday.
"The Americans have kidnapped more than 10 of our citizens in other countries even though they had visas and took them (to the United States) and say nothing.
"But three Americans entered illegally into our territory in a sensitive military zone and they make a noise round the world to say the Americans are very important," he told AFP in an interview.
Sarah Shourd, 31, Shane Bauer, 27, and Josh Fattal, 27, were arrested on July 31 after allegedly straying across the border from Iraq's Kurdistan region and are due to go on trial in Iran.
In the United States, the mother of Shourd launched a video campaign Friday urging clemency for the group.
"This is a time of the year when families come together. This time unites us as children of God," Norah Shourd said in the video directed at Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and posted on the website www.freethehikers.org.
"They are good people, they did not mean to enter Iran and have deep respect for your ancient and noble civilization…. If they entered Iran it was an innocent mistake," she said.
But Ahmadinejad invoked the rule of law.
"Those who break the law will have to answer for it. Justice is independent in Iran and will decide," he said.
"We are unhappy that people are in prison. There are about 3.5 million Americans in jail in the United States, I hope they will be allowed out to be with their families during Christmas."
Iran's public prosecutor said in November they faced espionage charges but on Monday Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the trio, who are held at Tehran's Evin prison in separate cells, will face trial.
"Interrogation of the three Americans who have illegally entered Iran with suspicious aims is ongoing," he said.
Their friends and relatives deny that they are spies and the United States insists they be released.
"On behalf of the mothers of Shane and Josh, I respectfully apologize and request for your benevolence for this time of the year. Please release our children and return them home to us," said Shourd, her head covered by a shawl in the video.
"The holidays are a time for families to be together. This is not an American value or an Iranian value, it is a human value."
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has also urged Iran to free the hikers.