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Iran foreign minister hopes US "hikers" will be freed

Iran's foreign minister has said he hopes two Americans jailed for more than a year on spying charges will be freed as their trial concludes

Reuters , Saturday 6 Aug 2011
US hikers
Shane Bauer and Josh Fatta (Reuters photo)
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Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal are awaiting a verdict from what was supposed to have been the last day of their trial last Sunday. They pleaded not guilty to spying charges after they were arrested on 31 July 2009 near Iran's border with Iraq.

"The judicial case of these American nationals is following its course. We hope their trial will advance in a way that would lead to their freedom," Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told a news conference in Tehran, according to the students' news agency ISNA.

"We thank the judiciary for treating the issue with justice and fairness. The people at the judiciary will communicate about this issue at the appropriate time."

Along with a third American, Sarah Shourd, who was released on bail in September and returned to the United States, Bauer and Fattal say they were hiking in the mountains of Iraq and if they crossed the unmarked border into Iran it was by mistake.

Their lawyer, Masoud Shafiee, said he expected a verdict within a week of the hearing.

Spying can be punishable by death in Iran, but Shafiee has said there is no evidence against his clients and even if found guilty of illegally entering Iran they should be freed due to time already served.

In an interview on the website freethehikers.org, Shourd says she believes the case has become a "tug of war" between Iran and the United States which have been enemies since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew the US-backed Shah.

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