Exclusive: Solitary Confinement Taking Toll on U.S. Hikers in Iran Prison

Belgian tourist who saw hiker says Americans are in solitary confinement.

ByABC News
January 27, 2010, 1:34 PM

Jan. 27, 2010— -- A Belgian tourist detained for three months in an Iranian prison said he has had contact with one of the three U.S. hikers imprisoned since July and that he appeared to be well-fed but suffering from the effects of prolonged imprisonment, including solitary confinement.

"The hiker I could sometime catch a glimpse of seemed at times a bit depressed" because of the difficult conditions of his detention, Idesbald van den Bosch told ABC News today.

"It is clear imprisonment had an impact on him" van den Bosch said. "He did not look thin. We were well fed, well treated. We were not badly treated physically."

He did not say which of the American, two men a woman, who was referring to. Americans Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were arrested on July 31 while hiking a trail in Iraq that crisscrossed the unmarked border with Iran.

Van den Bosch and fellow Belgian bicycle tourist Boon Falleur were arrested in Iran on Sept. 5 on suspicion of espionage after having entered, without their knowledge, a military zone where they also took photographs. Diego Mathieu, another Belgian whom both tourists had met in the Iranian capital Tehran, was also arrested a few days later.

They were held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, the same prison where the three American hikers are being held. The Belgians were released in December, but the Americans remain in prison. In a statement Tuesday, van den Bosch and Falleur said the Americans remain in solitary.

"I'm worried for their well-being because I know the effect solitary confinement had on me" Van den Bosch told ABCNews.com.

"It was rather difficult," he said of his three month incarceration. "I only spent one month in solitary confinement. So, for them, it must be awful."

He added, "I think they're innocent and I think they've spent enough time in prison and in solitary confinement."

A spokesman for the American families declined to comment on van den Bosch's description of the unnamed American and reiterated a statement released on Tuesday which said, "We remain deeply concerned about Shane, Sarah and Josh and their well-being. On Sunday, they will have been held for six months, with no contact with their families -- not even one phone call -- and have not had access to their lawyer. We appeal yet again to the Iranian authorities to release our loved ones and end our sorrow."

On Tuesday, Van den Bosch and Falleur wrote in a press release that they "were deeply concerned about their (the hikers) well-being."

"The psychological stresses of detention were very great, especially during interrogation and solitary confinement" the Belgian tourists wrote in their Tuesday statement.

"The pressure during interrogation was psychological. In solitary confinement, we were in cells with no outside contact and a ceiling light on day and night" they explained.