Quick U.S. hikers' release ruling unlikely in Iran

Sept. 15, 2011 at 10:02 AM
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TEHRAN, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- The attorney for two U.S. hikers jailed in Iran said he filed the required paperwork for their release on bail, but doesn't expect a decision before Saturday.

Attorney Masoud Shafiee said he hoped a decision about whether to release Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer would be made then, but that he was "not privy to what goes on behind the scenes," CNN reported Thursday.

Earlier this week, Shafiee said he expected Fattal and Bauer to be released after spending more than two years in prison once $500,000 in bail is paid for each of them, but the Iranian judiciary later said it was only considering the bail request.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told several U.S. media outlets he would release the hikers for humanitarian reasons, but was later contradicted by the judiciary, which is run by the country's clerics.

Fattal and Bauer were tried and convicted of spying and entering Iran illegally. In August, they were sentenced to eight years in prison.

Fattal and Bauer and a third hiker, Sarah Shourd, were arrested July 31, 2009, after apparently unknowingly crossing an unmarked border into Iran while hiking in northern Iraq. The three said they were unaware they had crossed into Iran, but Iranian authorities accused them of being spies who entered the country illegally.

Shourd, who is Bauer's fiancee, was released last year for medical reasons on $500,000 bail. Authorities said her case remains open.

Amnesty International called for the hikers' immediate release.

"The Iranian authorities must stop treating Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal as pawns, both in their dealings with the U.S. government and in domestic political rivalries," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

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