Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer have an intriguing ally in their corner: Muhammad Ali. The Greatest quietly sent a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last month asking him to release the captive American hikers, and now he's going public with it. "Please show the world the compassion I know you have in your heart," Ali wrote, in a letter he handed the AP yesterday. He addressed Khamenei as "dear brother," and praised him for showing compassion to released hiker Sarah Shourd. Ali previously wrote Khamenei just before her release last year.
"He was hoping his letter would bear some weight in trying to secure the release of these ... two idealistic young people," wife Lonnie Ali says. She also says that Ali is willing to travel to Iran—a country he's visited twice before—to seal the deal. "If we thought that they would be released and if Muhammad's presence would have some impact ... then, yes, we would try very hard to make sure Muhammad was able to go," she said, though she added that "a lot of that, as you know, would depend on Muhammad's health."