TEHRAN, Iran — Three Americans jailed in Iran for 10 months embraced their mothers and spoke of their life in Tehran’s most dreaded prison Thursday in an emotional reunion that Iranian authorities broadcast on a main international channel.

The women hope their weeklong visit will secure the release of Sarah Shourd, 31; her boyfriend, Shane Bauer, 27; and their friend Josh Fattal, 27.

The mothers threw their arms in the air and rushed to embrace their children as they entered a room at a high-rise hotel that overlooks the Evin Prison where the three have been held.

They cried, laughed and kissed. The conservative Islamic head scarves worn by the mothers slipped back and bouquets of flowers were set aside as they sat together and began to reconstruct their lives since last summer.

The families later ate lunch together at a feast of rice, kebabs and other traditional Middle Eastern dishes. The visit was scheduled to last until evening, said the families’ Iranian lawyer, Masoud Shafii, but it was not clear whether the three detainees would have to return to the prison for the night.

Iran’s main task appeared aimed at leveraging high propaganda value for the visit.

The meeting at the Esteghlal Hotel in north Tehran received extensive coverage on Iran’s state-run Press TV, the government’s main English-language broadcast arm. Reporters for the foreign media also were allowed their first glimpse of the three Americans since their arrest on the border with Iraq last July.

The trio has been accused of spying and entering Iran illegally after being detained on the porous border with Iraq last July. Relatives say the three were simply hiking in Iraq’s scenic and largely peaceful mountainous northern Kurdish region.

The decision to give a highly scripted public face to the private family moments suggests the trip by Nora Shourd, Cindy Hickey and Laura Fattal could be drawn deeper into Iran’s brinksmanship with the West over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program and a U.S.-led push for harsher sanctions.

Lawyer Shafii predicted it was “very unlikely” that the jailed Americans would be allowed to return home with their mothers because the case has not yet reached the courts.

But he added in an interview with AP Television News that decisions could be made outside the normal legal framework. “Anything can happen,” he said.


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