Iran judiciary denies US 'hikers' release is imminent

September 15, 2011 07:51

TEHRAN - Iran's judiciary said on Wednesday the release on bail of two US citizens convicted of espionage was not imminent, state media reported, rejecting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's announcement that they will be freed in a couple of days.

Analysts say the contrast between the judiciary's statement and Ahmadinejad's promise highlights a rift between Iran's ruling hardline elites, germinated by Ahmadinejad's disputed 2009 re-election and the protests which followed.

The statement is also an indication of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's powerful position in the Islamic state's complex political structure, analysts say.

"Ahmadinejad's announcement could not be made without getting a green light from the leader ... however, the judiciary's move reminded the president of his limitations," said analyst Saeed Monfared.

"Khamenei is a very clever politician ... who avoids empowering others too much ... the two will be freed but not at the time announced by Ahmadinejad."

Ahmadinejad had told US media that the two would be freed "in a couple of days", in what he called a humanitarian gesture shortly ahead of his trip to the United Nations in New York.

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