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Iran Confirms Two Detained Americans to Face Trial

by Farhad Pouladi

TEHRAN — Iran will begin prosecuting from November 6 three US hikers on charges of espionage and for illegally entering the Islamic republic, their lawyer Masoud Shafii told AFP on Wednesday.

Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal wait before meeting their mothers in Tehran May 20, 2010. Shourd, held with Bauer and Fattal in Iran for more than a year on suspicion of spying, left the country on September 14th after she was released on bail. The three were detained near the Islamic Republic's border with Iraq in late July 2009. (Credit: Reuters/PRESS TV) Two of the three hikers, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, have been held in a Tehran jail for more than a year, while fellow American Sarah Shourd was released on bail last month by the Iranian authorities.

"It is true that on November 6 their trial will start at 10:00 am (0630 GMT)," Shafii said, adding that judge Abolqasem Salavati would preside over the court proceedings.

Salavati is known for trying people accused of anti-Iran and anti-revolution activities, especially in the wake of massive street protests that followed the disputed June 2009 presidential election.

He also presided over the trial of French academic Clotilde Reiss who was arrested during that unrest and later freed after paying a fine of 285,000 dollars.

Shafii said he had informed the families of the three hikers of the trial date.

"The three are accused of espionage and illegally entering the country," he said, adding it was up to the family of Shourd, who returned to the United States on her release, whether to allow her to attend the trial or not.

"If she is not present, it will hurt her bail. I cannot request that she be present. It is up to them to decide. I as a lawyer have only informed them of the time of the trial and I will execute my duty to defend the three," he said.

During Shourd's release, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabdi had warned that if she did not appear for the trial her bail amount of around 500,000 dollars would be "seized" and she would be prosecuted in absentia.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton renewed appeals for the release of the two men still detained in Iran and said she was aware that their trial was on November 6.

"We continue to express our hope that the Iranian authorities will exercise the humanitarian option of releasing these two young men," she said.

"We do not believe that there is any basis whatsoever for them to be put on trial and we regret that they and their families are being subjected to a criminal system that we do not think in any way reflects their actions.

"So it's our continuing request to the Iranian government that, just as they released the young woman, that they release these two young men," Clinton said, adding "it's unfortunate" the pair had been held for more than a year.

Iranian authorities arrested the three hikers on July 31, 2009 after they strayed into Iran from Iraq, and accused them of "spying and illegally entering the country."

The three have rejected the charges, insisting that they mistakenly entered Iran after getting lost during a trek in Iraqi Kurdistan.

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