Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that Iranian charges against three detained Americans are "totally unfounded" and appealed anew to authorities in Iran to release them.
Clinton said the three were in no way involved in any questionable activity and were simply hiking near the Iraq-Iran border when they allegedly crossed an unmarked border. Her comments came after Iran's foreign minister said the three had "suspicious aims" and would stand trial. Iranian officials have said earlier the trio is suspected of espionage.
"We consider this a totally unfounded charge," Clinton told reporters. "There is no basis for it. The three young people who were detained by the Iranians have absolutely no connection with any kind of action against the Iranian state or government."
"In fact, they were out hiking and unfortunately, apparently, allegedly, walked across an umarked boundary," she said. "We appeal to the Iranian leadership to release these three young people and free them as soon as possible."
The Americans _ Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27 _ were detained after crossing the border from Iraq on July 31. The three graduates of the University of California at Berkeley had been trekking in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region, their relatives say.
They have been held in Tehran's Evin prison, where Swiss diplomats who represent U.S. interests in Iran have visited them twice.
Earlier Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the three would be tried but would not say when proceedings would begin.
"They will be tried by Iran's judiciary system and verdicts will be issued," Mottaki told a news conference in Tehran, without elaborating. He said the three were still being interrogated.