Boxing legend Muhammad Ali has asked the government of Iran to release two American hikers held in the country for two years since on spying charges.
Ali, a prominent Muslim and a world-famous figure, released a letter to the Associated Press that he wrote to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in February.
The letter asked Khameinei to release Josh Fattel and Shane Bauer, who were arrested while hiking in northern Iraq near the Iranian border.
The letter beseeches Khamenei as a brother in Islam to show mercy and compassion for the two men.
“Please show the world the compassion I know you have in your heart,” Ali wrote to Khamenei.
Another hiker, Sarah Shourd, was released on bail in September, following another letter Ali wrote to Khamenei.
The boxing champion’s wife, Lonnie, told the AP that Muhammad was asked to intercede by the late John Arum, son of legendary boxing promoter Bob Arum.
John Arum, who was also a hiker, died on Storm King Mountain in Washington state shortly after he asked Ali to help and before Shourd was released, Lonnie said.
Lonnie said her husband has visited Iran twice before, including a trip in the early 1990s where he sought to secure the exchange of prisoners during the Iran-Iraq war.
She added that Muhammad would go to Iran to help free the two hiker' release, but it would depend on his health, which in recent years has been ravaged by Parkinson's Disease.
Life is sacred; we just want to make sure Muhammad is physically up to such a trip, she said.
Alex Fattel, Josh Fattel's brother, visited the Alis in Arizona on Tuesday.
We are deeply grateful to Mr. Ali and the many other people around the world who know that Shane and Josh absolutely do not deserve to be in prison, the families said in a statement released through their spokeswoman, Samantha Topping.
We hope and pray that Iran hears this appeal and responds with compassion. It is time for this nightmare to end.