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Bauer was no stranger to travel in the Middle East, a proficient speaker of Arabic and a freelance journalist in conflict zones ranging from Darfur to Baghdad.
"I'll just be there for a week-mostly I want to feel out the situation there and get some ideas for deeper stories," Bauer wrote in an e-mail to one of his publishers the day he left for the province. "Kurdistan is the big story in Iraq right now."
But while on a hike near the Iraqi resort town of Ahmed Awa just four days later, he and two companions-his girlfriend and a former housemate-were arrested and later charged with c
Several friends also maintain the detainees' innocence amid allegations that have gained global attention.
"I'm terrified. I'm terrified for her," said Rebecca Fisher, a longtime friend of Shourd. "I have no idea what the Iranian authorities are going to do."
Friends Call Allegations Against Detainees 'Absurd'
Swiss diplomats are currently negotiating with Iran to determine the status of the detainees. However, no significant progress has been reported.
Voice of Iraq, an Iraqi media outlet, reported that Colonel Anwar Haj Omar of the Halabja police force in northern Iraq had linked the three Americans to the Central Intelligence Agency, according to Press TV, Iran's national news agency.
Media Reports "Spun," Says Scholar
UCLA Iranian Studies Director Hossein Ziai said the media reports coming out of the region are heavily skewed and often untrue.
"They're anything but news ... I call them rags, where things are spun and a lot of them lie," he said. "Nobody believes what is said in these sources."
Ziai said he was frightened by the accusations that the detainees are C.I.A. agents because the claims could be used in "show trials" on Iranian national television. In these trials, defendants confess to the accusations against them and say they were trying to subvert the government, he said.