U.S. President Barack Obama has called on Iran to "immediately release" three American hikers who have been held in the Islamic Republic for a full year.
In a written statement, Obama said the three have never worked for the U.S. government, have committed "absolutely no crime," and have never had a quarrel with the Iranian government.
Obama said the hikers -- Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27 -- were "simply open-minded and adventurous young people who represent the best of America, and of the human spirit."
Obama added that what he called the "unjust detention" of the three by Iranian authorities violates international human rights conventions.
He also said their detention has "nothing to do with the issues that continue to divide the United States and the international community from the Iranian government."
In New York City, about 50 people, including the mothers of the hikers, protested July 30 outside the Iranian mission to the United Nations, calling on Tehran to release the three.
"Our kids are being incarcerated for no reason, and for a year, so that is an outrageous ... ridiculous, unnecessary, and unethical detention," said Laura Fattal, mother of hiker Josh Fattal.
The human rights group Amnesty International has called on Iran to either prosecute the three for legitimate criminal offenses or release them, saying that otherwise it appears they are being held by Iran only because of their U.S. nationality.
Iranian authorities have suggested the three were working as spies -- but no criminal charges have been publicly filed.
Iranian authorities detained the group on July 31, 2009, near the Iran-Iraq border after they apparently accidently strayed across the border during what has been described as a hiking trip in the Kurdish mountains of northern Iraq.
compiled from agency reports