Now a five-month investigation by The Nation and the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute has located two witnesses to the arrest who claim that Bauer, Fattal and Shourd were on Iraqi territory when they were arrested—not in Iran, as Iranian officials have asserted. Two additional sources report that the Revolutionary Guards officer who likely ordered their detention has since been arrested on charges of smuggling, kidnapping and murder.
The witnesses are residents of a Kurdish village in Iraq called Zalem, which lies a few miles from the Iran border; they declined to be identified, fearing retaliation from Iranian forces, who have been known to conduct missions across the border. The witnesses separately reported noticing the three Americans as they hiked up a mountain in the scenic Khormal region, which straddles the border. Part of the mountain lies in Iraq and part in Iran, but except for a few watchtowers and occasional signposts, the border here is largely unmarked, although local residents are familiar with its boundaries.
The witnesses, who followed the Western-looking hikers out of curiosity, say that around 2 pm on July 31, as the hikers descended the mountain, uniformed guards from NAJA, Iran’s national police force, waved the hikers toward the Iranian side using “threatening” and “menacing” gestures. When their calls were ignored, one officer fired a round into the air. As the hikers continued to hesitate, the guards walked a few yards in… >>>