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Muhammad Ali Calls On Iran To Release Detained UC Grads

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Former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali (center) is escorted away after joining other prominent American Muslims and clergy attending a news conference at the National Press Club on May 24, 2011 in Washington, DC. Ali and other prominent American Muslims and clergy appealed to Iran's Supreme Leader for the release Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, the two U.S. hikers detained in Iran since July 31, 2009. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali (center) is escorted away after joining other prominent American Muslims and clergy attending a news conference at the National Press Club on May 24, 2011 in Washington, DC. Ali and other prominent American Muslims and clergy appealed to Iran’s Supreme Leader for the release Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, the two U.S. hikers detained in Iran since July 31, 2009. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (KCBS) – Boxing legend Muhammad Ali joined representatives of more than a dozen American Muslim groups in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, as he appealed for the release of two U.S. hikers, who have been detained in Iran for more than 21 months.

The three-time former heavyweight champion is part of a group that sent a letter to Iran’s supreme leader, pleading for mercy, forgiveness and compassion in the cases of Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal.

The two UC Berkeley graduates, along with Sarah Shourd, were taken into custody in July 2009 along the Iran-Iraq border. Bauer and Fattal have been held in a Tehran prison ever since and face charges of espionage. Shourd was released last September because of her poor health.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:

Ali’s wife, Lonnie, spoke on behalf of her husband, whose speech is limited by Parkinson’s disease.

“The people of Iran are good people,” she said. “We ask that they will look at them as the world looked at Muhammad when he was a young man, wanting to experience the world and experience people.”

Fattal’s mother, Laura, said her husband told Josh about the news conference during a phone call from Iran on Sunday.

“It was only the third time Josh has been allowed to call home in more than 21 months of imprisonment,” she said. “He was honored to know that the champ and people of peace around the world are raising their voices for his freedom.”

The trial was scheduled to resume on May 11, but Bauer and Fattal weren’t brought to court on that day and no explanation has been given to their families or lawyer in Tehran as to why it has been delayed.

Shourd has refused to return to Iran for the trial and is being prosecuted in absentia.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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