Trial of US hikers detained in Iran postponed

Iranian spokesman says released hiker must return to the country for trial, Teheran's Foreign Ministry says 60 Iranians are imprisoned in US.

November 2, 2010 09:26
2 minute read.
The hikers- file photo

American hikers Iran. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The start of the trial of three Americans charged with spying on Iran has been postponed because one of them has not been summoned to return to the country to appear in court, Iran's judiciary spokesman said Monday.

Sarah Shourd was freed on bail in September after nearly 14 months in a Teheran prison and returned to the United States. Her fiance, Shane Bauer, and their friend Josh Fattal remain in prison. Their trial was expected to begin on Saturday.

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The three Americans were reportedly hiking in July 2009 in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region near the Iranian border, when Iranian forces took them into custody and accused them of intentionally crossing over.

The initial accusation of illegal border crossing was later raised to espionage charges. The US government says the three are innocent.

In announcing the postponement, spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi said Shourd hasn't yet been legally summoned.

"Under this circumstances, the freed person (Shourd) needs to be summoned so that all three can stand trial," Ejehi was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

Bauer and Fattal's families issued a statement saying they had heard nothing officially about a trial postponement. The statement said their children had done nothing wrong and they "continue to pray that Iran will release them on humanitarian grounds."

Earlier, Iran warned that it will seize the $500,000 bail posted by Shourd if she does not return for trial.

Shourd, who has not disclosed any plans to return to Iran, said in an interview published Sunday in The New York Times that the three stepped off an unmarked dirt road and inadvertently crossed from Iraq only because a border guard of unknown nationality gestured for them to approach.

Shourd, 32, told the newspaper from her home in Oakland, California, that she wanted to correct the gathering false impression, fueled by a classified US military report made public by WikiLeaks, as well as earlier American and British news reports, that the trio was detained inside Iraq and forced across the border.

"We did not actually enter Iran until he gestured to us. We were confused and worried and wanted to go back," Shourd was quoted as saying.

Also on Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast told Fars News Agency that there are currently 60-65 Iranians in American jails, and that some of these have been"trapped" by the US.

Iran's focus, he said, "lies on those who have been jailed for political reasons or due to the illegal sanctions resolutions (against Iran) or fake and baseless claims."

The report said that in September, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki stated that Teheran had a list of Iranian nationals who are in US jails under false charges, and added that his department was closely pursuing the issue.

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