Renewing their appeal to Iran's mission to the United Nations, the families of the three U.S. hikers detained in Iran, including the parents of Joshua Fattal of Elkins Park, yesterday delivered a petition signed by 2,500 people asking for "compassion in this unfortunate case" and the release of their loved ones as soon as possible.

Iranian border guards arrested Fattal and Shane Bauer, both 27, and Sarah Shourd, 31, on July 31 after the companions wandered from Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq into Iran, apparently inadvertently. For 11 weeks they have had no contact with their families. The petition was signed online at www.freethehikers.org and vigils held across the country on Sept. 30 to mark two months of captivity.

Last week, Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.) wrote to Iran's permanent representative at the New York City mission, Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee, seeking "active assistance" toward the hikers' release.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last month that the hikers had broken the law but added that he could ask Iran's judiciary "to look at the case with maximum leniency." - Michael Matza