Anticipated release of U.S. hikers delayed

Sept. 20, 2011 at 11:33 AM
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TEHRAN, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The anticipated release of two U.S. hikers jailed in Iran for more than two years was delayed Tuesday when a judge who must sign a form didn't appear to court.

Masoud Shafii, the lawyer representing Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, arrived at court, where he was told the final judge who must sign the release order was not in, ABC News reported. The judge was supposed to return from vacation Tuesday.

"I went to the court as I was told [by the judiciary], but the judge whose signature we needed is not back to work yet," Shafii told ABC News. "They said they will contact me as soon as the judge comes back to work."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week told several U.S. media outlets Bauer and Fattal would be released on $500,000 bail each, just ahead of his appearance before the U.N. General Assembly. One judge signed the paperwork Saturday.

ABC News said Iranian sources said they think it is unlikely Bauer and Fattal would be released while Ahmadinejad is at the United Nations. The source said the holdup could be a possible effort by Ahmadinejad's rivals to prevent him from gaining more recognition on the world stage.

Bauer and Fattal have been incarcerated in Tehran's Evin prison since they were arrested in July 2009 on accusations of spying and illegally entering the country. Bauer and Fattal, along with hiker Sarah Shourd, maintain they inadvertently crossed an unmarked border into Iran while hiking in northern Iraq. Shourd was released last year on $500,000 bond on humanitarian grounds for a medical condition, although officials said her case was open.

Bauer and Fattal were tried and sentenced in August to eight years each on charges of espionage and illegal entry into Iran.

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