More than nine months of desperate pleading finally paid off for the mothers of three American hikers detained in Iran as they embraced their children in an emotional reunion in Tehran today.
It was the first time the mothers have seen the hikers since the group was arrested in July for crossing the Iranian border and accused of spying by Iranian officials. The brother of one of the hikers was nearly overcome with emotion when he saw video of his mother hugging and kissing his brother on the cheek when they met at the Esteghlal Hotel in north Tehran.
According to the U.S. State Department, the meeting between the families and the hikers lasted about 90 minutes, after which the families met with Iranian officials.
"That image of my mom hugging him is unbelievable. We waited a long time for an image like that. Wow," Alex Fattal told "Good Morning America" in an exclusive interview today. "I can't believe it... I was sending my mom off at JFK Airport like yesterday. To see her hugging my brother like this... I said, 'Mom, give him a big hug for me. Send him all my love.'"
Fattal's brother, 27-year-old Josh Fattal, along with Shane Bauer, 27, and Sarah Shourd, 31, has spent more than nine months in an Iranian prison. No formal charges have been brought against the three hikers and though they have lawyers, they have not been allowed to meet with them.
The mothers greeted the group exuberantly while wearing long black robes and carrying bouquets of flowers.
In a brief news conference, Bauer said the hikers received "no indication" that Iranian officials would release them anytime soon, but they're holding out hope.
"We always have hope we'll get released," he said. "We hope that Iran can continue with humanitarian gestures like letting our mothers come by releasing us on humanitarian grounds."
Alex Fattal was also hopeful.
"Now hopefully Iran will continue in this humanitarian spirit and allow them to come home with their mothers," he said. "What better time to release them to their mothers than right now? Hopefully the end is around the corner."
Alex Fattal, who spoke to his mother after her meeting with Josh, said the mothers didn't know if they were going to be able to meet with their children again, but hoped to see them "as frequently as possible, for as long as possible."
The mothers are traveling on week-long visas, Fattal said, which could limit their opportunities to fight for the hikers.
"Hopefully the higher authorities in Iran will grant requests to the mothers and meet with them so the mothers can appeal to them," he said.
After the initial reunion with their mothers, the three hikers spoke to reporters and described their captivity.
Bauer said the group had a "decent relationship" with the guards and that "it's been civil."
Josh Fattal said the officials eventually allowed the American to have books while in confinement.
"Once we started getting books that really helped the prison experience a lot," he said.
"Shane and Josh are in a room together, but I'm alone and that's the most difficult thing for me," Sarah Shourd said. "We have good food and we have medical care which is appreciated."
Shourd's mother told "GMA" Tuesday she was worried about her daughter because Swiss officials told her Sarah was suffering from depression and considering a hunger strike.