Benefit tomorrow (Wed./13) for hikers imprisoned in Iran

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Shane Bauer, left, and Josh Fattal are still in prison in Iran.
Photo courtesy Free the Hikers

Shane Bauer, a Bay Area photojournalist, will spend his 29th birthday in Iran's Evin Prison on July 13.

He has languished in prison along with his close friend, Josh Fattal, ever since they were detained July 31, 2009 while hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan, near the Iranian border. Bauer's fiancee, Sarah Shourd, was detained with them too, but was released from prison last September after spending 410 days in solitary confinement.

Shourd is joining with friends and supporters of Bauer on July 13 to host a benefit at Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco in support of ongoing efforts to push for Bauer and Fattal's release.

The event will feature a reception and presentation of Bauer's work. According to a press advisory, the evening is also being planned to recognize "the contributions of all the photojournalists who put their safety on the line to tell important and overlooked stories."

Bauer wrote for publications such as The Nation, Mother Jones, and the Christian Science Monitor. A photojournalist who has won multiple awards and had his work published internationally, he's documented everything from tenant conditions in San Francisco SROs to conflict-ridden regions in Africa and the Middle East. Bauer also wrote an article for the Guardian about an Oakland residence that is famous among East Bay anarchists.

There will be a screening of a new video made about his work, as well as a film Bauer produced with David Martinez documenting a group of armed rebels in Darfur. Speakers at the event will include Kim Komenich, a Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer who supports the Dart Center, an organization that works with journalists who suffer PTSD; Lou Dematteis, a former Reuters staff photographer who was based in Nicaragua during the US-backed Contra War; and Shon Meckfessel, a friend of the trio of hikers who nearly accompanied them on the trek in Iraqi Kurdistan but stayed behind because he was feeling ill, thus escaping captivity in Iran.

In Iran, a trial has been set for Bauer and Fattal on July 31, a full two years after they were taken into custody.

Earlier this month, their families of Bauer and Fattal released a statement calling for an end to the nightmare that began when the young men were first detained.

"Iran knows Shane and Josh are innocent and so does the world, which is watching how the Iranian authorities treat this case very closely," the statement said. "Shane and Josh are being held without any due process and their mental and physical welfare is in grave danger. Their suffering needs to end now and they should be allowed to return home immediately."

The event will be held Wednesday, July  13, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Rayko Photo Center, 428 Third Street, S.F. (Presentation starts at 7:15.) For more information, visit freethehikers.org, facebook.com/FreetheHikers, and twitter.com/freethehikers.