Will Ahmadinejad Free the Hikers?

| Wed Sep. 23, 2009 2:01 AM EDT

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad always goes on a bit of a PR offensive during his trip to New York for the UN General Assembly, doing interviews and meeting with prominent Americans. This year's visit, which comes after the brutal suppression of election protests in Iran as well as on the heels of a fresh round of Holocaust denial, should be a bit more challenging than usual, with massive protests planned outside the UN. On one front, though, the Iranian president seems to be offering an olive branch: In an interview with the AP, he signals that he'll ask Iranian courts to treat three US hikers detained in Iran, including MoJo contributor Shane Bauer, with "maximum leniency." (The hikers' mothers last week issued an open letter (pdf) asking Ahmadinejad to bring their children with him to New York.) 

For another American held in Iraq, Ahmadinejad offered less hope, reports the AP: 

"[He] also was asked about the case of an Iranian-Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari, who was working for Newsweek magazine and imprisoned while covering the social unrest in Iran after the disputed June presidential election. Ahmadinejad did not reply about Bahari, limiting his remarks to the case of the hikers."

 Stay tuned for more signals during Ahmadinejad's speech today.