Iran Verdict on Detained U.S. Nationals Expected in a Week
An Iranian court will likely deliver a verdict within a week in the case of U.S. nationals that have been detained for two years over espionage charges, their lawyer, Masoud Shafiei, said.
“Today’s session was the final hearing and I was given enough time to defend my clients,” Shafiei said in a telephone interview from Tehran following the court session. “We rejected both charges of spying and illegal entry,” he said, adding that he was ‘hopeful’’ his clients may be released soon.
The release of prisoners during the fasting month of Ramadan, which begins around August 1 this year, isn’t uncommon in Muslim countries. Shafiei said yesterday that Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, the two detainees, could be released in line with “Islamic compassion” on the wake of Ramadan, according to a July 30 report by the state-run Fars news agency.
Fattal and Bauer were detained on July 31, 2009, and prosecuted for illegally crossing into Iran from Iraq. The U.S. government has said they mistakenly wandered across the border during a hiking trip and has called for their release. Fattal and Bauer’s first hearing was held in Tehran on February 6.
The continued detention of the two men has been another point of contention between Iran and the U.S., which accuses the Persian Gulf country of seeking to build atomic weapons under cover of its nuclear program. Iran rejects the claim and says it needs the technology to secure energy for is growing population.
In February 2010, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran may be ready to exchange the detainees with Iranians held in the U.S. The overture was dismissed by the State Department.
Fattal and Bauer had been detained alongside a third U.S. national, Sarah Shourd, who was freed in September on bail of $500,000, with Iranian authorities citing “humanitarian” reasons. Shourd left the country immediately.
Bauer is a freelance journalist and photographer, who got engaged to Shourd while they were both in prison. Fattal is an environmentalist who was visiting Damascus before they headed to Iraq, according to freethehikers.org, a website that was set up to support their release.
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