Iran sentences US hikers to 8 years ‘for spying’
Iran has sentenced two American hikers to eight years in prison for illegally entering the country and spying for a US intelligence agency, state television said on Saturday.
“According to an informed source with the judiciary, Shane Bauer… and… Josh Fattal, the two detained American citizens, have been each sentenced to three years in prison for illegal entry to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the television reported on its website.
It further said the two have been “sentenced to five years in prison on charges of espionage for the American intelligence agency,” without saying when the verdict had been reached.
“The case of Sarah Shourd, who has been freed on bail is still open,” the report said referring to the third hiker who is being tried in absentia.
The verdict is expected to further raise tension between Washington and Tehran at a time when the animosity between the two has deepened under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The lawyer for the three Americans, Masoud Shafii, told AFP that he had not been informed of any decision since their trial ended on July 31.
According to the report, the two men have 20 days to appeal against the verdict.
Bauer and Fattal, both 29, were arrested along with Shourd, 32, on the unmarked border between Iran and Iraq on July 31, 2009, with the trio claiming they were hiking in Iraq’s northern province of Kurdistan when they innocently strayed into the Islamic republic.
The last hearing in the case was held behind closed doors without the presence of Shourd who is being tried in absentia after she returned to the United States when she was freed on humanitarian and medical grounds in September 2010, paying bail of around 500,000 dollars.
The trio has pleaded not guilty to spying charges.
Shafii had expressed hope for the release of his clients after Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on August 6 he hoped the trial of Bauer and Fattal would lead to their “freedom.”
Salehi also said the judiciary would announce the verdict in due course for the case which he added “is being pursued with justice and fairness.”
The report on Saturday comes after Iran’s prosecutor general Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie said last Monday that the verdict of the trial would be issued “soon.”
When asked whether there was a possibility of pardoning the three during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, which ends late August, he said he had “not heard such a rumour.”
Washington has vehemently denied Tehran’s charge that the three are spies and has called on the Islamic republic to release Bauer and Fattal.