Pleading to Iran: Boxing Great Muhammad Ali Appeals for U.S. Hikers’ Release

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GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

America’s arguably most prominent Muslim wrote a letter to the spiritual and political leader of Iran requesting the release of two American hikers captured in 2009.

Boxing great Muhammad Ali pleaded to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as fellow Muslim, to “please show the world the compassion I know you have in your heart.”

(More on TIME.com: See pictures of Muhammad Ali)

The two hikers, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, were arrested on charges of spying. A third hiker, Sarah Shourd, was released on bail in September. Ali wrote another letter to Iran shortly before the female hiker’s release, although it’s unclear whether it had any effect.

Since ending his boxing career, Ali established a center for world peace in his hometown Louisville, Ky. Ali has visited Iran twice, including a visit during the early 1990s to negotiate the release of prisoners during the Iran-Iraq war. His wife Lonnie told the Associated Press that he would be willing return to Iran to advocate for the captured hikers, although it would be difficult considering his Parkinson’s disease. (via AP)

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