Shane Bauer Josh Fattal 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/PressTv/Files)
TEHRAN - Iran will issue verdicts soon on American hikers detained for more than two years on espionage charges, a judiciary official was quoted as saying on Monday, dimming hopes for their immediate release.
Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have been awaiting a verdict since their trial ended last month. They pleaded not guilty to spying charges after they were arrested along with American Sarah Shourd in July 2009 near Iran's border with Iraq.
:Iran foreign minister says hopes US 'hikers' will be freedIran may release detained US hikers soon, says lawyer
Shourd was released on bail in September 2010 and returned to the United States.
"Reviewing the case has ended and the final verdict will be issued soon," Prosecutor General Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei was quoted as saying by the students' news agency ISNA.
When asked whether the two men would be released during the Muslim holy
month of Ramadan, which began on Aug. 1, Mohseni-Ejei said he had not
heard such "rumors", according to ISNA.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Aug. 6 he hoped the two
Americans would be freed, in what was seen at the time as the most
positive signal yet that their ordeal may soon end.
Their lawyer, Masoud Shafiee, had said he expected a verdict within a week of the final court hearing.
Spying can be punishable by death in Iran but Shafiee has said there is
no evidence against his clients and even if found guilty of illegally
entering Iran they should be freed due to time already served.
In November, Iran's judiciary announced espionage charges against the
three. Their families said they were hiking and had strayed across the
border accidentally. Washington says the charges are totally unfounded
and they should be released.
The United States cut diplomatic ties with Tehran after the 1979 Iranian
revolution. The two countries are now embroiled in a row over Iran's
nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at making atomic
bombs. Tehran denies this.