The three UC Berkeley graduates held in Iran were allowed to phone their relatives for the first time on Tuesday, CNN reports. Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were detained last July 31 after crossing the border into Iran while on a hiking trip in Iraqi Kurdistan. They are being held on charges of espionage.

“It was a tremendous relief to hear their voices at last and know that Shane, Sarah and Josh are keeping well and staying strong,” the families said in a statement. “We believe the calls are a positive signal that their long detention may soon be over after these many months of anguish and uncertainty.”

Bauer and Fattal are being held in the same cell in a Tehran prison. Shourd is in a cell on her own, but the three are able to visit each other every day, according to the families.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (above right) last month called for the Iranians to release the three, saying the three are being “unjustly detained”. The hikers have not been put on trial, but there have been no public signs that the Iranian government is softening its stand.

Information about the three and about the campaign for their release can be found at Free the Hikers.

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...