PARDON

Families Beg Iran to Free Prisoners

For nine months, three Berkeley graduates have been stuck in Iranian prison cells. Their crime? Crossing an unmarked section of the Iran-Iraq border while hiking on vacation. Now their families are imploring President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to grant them a pardon and bring them home when he travels to New York this weekend. In an open letter, the families of Sarah Shourd, 31, Shane Bauer, 27, and Josh Fattal, 27, asked Ahmadinejad to "invite our children to leave the darkness and despair of their prison cells and join you on your journey. It would be a most noble act of mercy and compassion, at a time when the world so desperately needs such acts." But the Iranian leader does not seem inclined to grant them much clemency. Though he said he would ask the courts to go easy, he also insisted in September that the hikers broke the law.