Washington said Saturday that two US hikers “have been imprisoned too long” in Iran and that it was looking into reports that they had been sentenced to eight years in jail for spying.
“We are working to confirm these reports and are in contact with the Swiss Protecting Power to obtain more information,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.
“We have repeatedly called for the release of Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, who have now been held in Iran’s Evin prison for two years,” she added.
“Shane and Josh have been imprisoned too long, and it is time to reunite them with their families.”
A spokesman for the families of the two men declined to comment on the reported sentencing.
Iran’s state television, quoting a judiciary source, had earlier reported that the two hikers were sentenced to eight years in prison for entering the country illegally and spying for a US intelligence agency.
The Swiss embassy, which handles US interests in Iran since diplomatic relations were severed in 1980, said it was not in a position to confirm the report.
Bauer and Fattal, both 29, were arrested with fellow American Sarah Shourd, 32, on the unmarked border between Iran and Iraq on July 31, 2009. Shourd was freed on medical grounds in September and returned to the United States.
The trio claim they were hiking in Iraq’s northern province of Kurdistan when they innocently strayed into the Islamic republic.
Washington has vehemently denied Tehran’s charge that the three were spies and has repeatedly called on Iran to release Bauer and Fattal.