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Muhammad Ali has entered the fight for two American hikers detained in Iraq since July 2009.

Ali has sent a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei requesting the release of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, who were arrested near the Iranian border and held on charges of spying.

“Most Americans don’t know how warm and welcoming the Iranian people can be,” Ali wrote. “One day, I hope I am able to return to Tehran to stand, greet and be among my Iranian brothers and sisters once again. Perhaps that day will come soon.”

Ali is a Muslim, and his effort has earned the praise of Fattal and Bauer’s families: “We are deeply grateful to Mr. Ali and the many other people around the world who know that Shane and Josh absolutely do not deserve to be in prison. We hope and pray that Iran hears this appeal and responds with compassion. It is time for this nightmare to end.”

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