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Iran Sentences U.S. 'Hikers' To Eight Years In Jail For Espionage, Illegal Entry

Source: RFE/RL

The website for Iranian state television is reporting that an Iranian court has sentenced U.S. citizens Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal to eight years in prison. It said the two were convicted for "illegal entry" into Iran, for which they each received three years in jail, and for "espionage," for which they each received five additional years of jail time.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal in prison uniforms
Shane Bauer (L) and Josh Fattal in a Tehran court in February
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It was not immediately clear if that includes time served. They have 20 days to appeal the sentence.

Masud Shafii, the lawyer for the 28-year-old Americans, told Radio Farda that he could not confirm the verdict because he still has not seen anything written from the court.

"The verdict has not been officially -- or unofficially -- handed to me," Shafii said. "I would certainly comment after it is handed over."

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."

Bauer, Fattal, and fellow U.S. citizen Sarah Shourd were apprehended by Iranian guards near the unmarked border with Iraq in July 2009.

The three pleaded not guilty at a closed-door hearing on February 6, saying they strayed into Iranian territory by mistake while hiking in a scenic area in northern Iraq.

They had been awaiting a verdict following another trial hearing on July 31.

Shourd was released on $500,000 bail on medical grounds in September 2010 and is back in the United States.

The state television report said "the case of Sarah Shourd, who was freed on bail, is still open."

U.S. officials have dismissed any suggestions that the three were spies.

The case has added to tensions between the United States and Iran that were already high over other issues, including Tehran's disputed nuclear program. The two countries have no direct diplomatic relations, so Washington has been relying on an interests section at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran to follow the case.

In June, relatives of the two men alleged their loved ones were being subjected to psychological torture, physical abuse, and a lack of due process in Iran.

In May, U.S. boxing legend Muhammad Ali and several other prominent U.S. Muslims sent a letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatolah Ali Khamenei saying that the men should be released on the basis of compassion and kindness "following the example of Prophet Muhammad."

with agency reports

Copyright (c) 2011 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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