US "hikers" lawyer appeals Iran spying sentences

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 28, 2011 9:48 AM
US "hikers" lawyer appeals Iran spying sentences

TEHRAN (Reuters) - The lawyer for two Americans convicted of spying in Iran said on Sunday he had lodged an appeal against their eight-year sentences and still hoped they might be pardoned.

Masoud Shafiee has not been able to see Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal since their conviction last week but said they had been informed of the verdict, passed two years after their arrest near the Iraq border where they say they were hiking.

The sentence came as a shock for supporters of the men whose hopes for their imminent release had been raised by positive comments from Iran's foreign minister.

"I hope because of the holy month of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr they might enjoy Islamic clemency," Shafiee told Reuters.

The end of the Muslim fasting month, which has yet to be announced by religious authorities in Iran, is likely to be on Tuesday or Wednesday and Shafiee said clemency remained a possibility.

Bauer and Fattal were arrested on July 31, 2009 along with a third American, Sarah Shourd, who was released on $500,000 bail in September 2010 and returned home.

The trio, in their late 20s and early 30s, say they were hiking in the mountains of northern Iraq and, if they crossed the unmarked border into Iran, it was by mistake. Under Iranian law, espionage can carry the death penalty.

Their trial took place behind closed doors and no evidence against them has been made public.

The affair has compounded tension between Tehran and Washington, which have had no diplomatic relations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the subsequent storming of the U.S. embassy by revolutionary students.

(Reporting by Ramin Mostafavi; Writing by Robin Pomeroy, editing by Rosalind Russell)