American hiker trial continues in Iran

In 2009, three young Americans, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were arrested and detained for 18 months after being accused of spying and illegally entering Iran while hiking on near the Iran–Iraq border.

Bauer is a freelance journalist and photographer who lived in Damascus with Shourd, who is a teacher, writer and women’s rights activist. Their friend Fattal is an environmentalist and a teacher.

Shourd was released for health reasons on $500,000 bail, provided she would attend the trial.

On Feb. 6, Bauer and Fattal were held in a five-hour closed door trial in Tehran. The two men appeared at the trial and pleaded not guilty. Shroud was absent from trial and therefore her bail is at risk of being forfeited. Their lawyer, Masoud Shafiei, believes that there still will be at least one more session.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has asked the court to be lenient, but might also be trying to draw attention to Iranians being held in the United States. However, Iran’s ruling clerics have rejected Ahmadinejad’s requests for leniency. If the charge of espionage is not added, the Americans’ maximum sentence will be ten years.

Families of the Americans have made high-profile appeals for their release. It is possible that if Bauer, Shourd and Fattal are found guilty of espionage, they will face the death penalty. In addition, the U.S. has repeatedly stated that there is no foundation for the trial and that they should be released. There is no official date set for the next trial.

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