U.S. has been told Iran to try hikers on November 6

WASHINGTON Tue Oct 19, 2010 5:43pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has been told that Iran plans to try two U.S. citizens detained for more than a year on November 6 but hopes Tehran will release the men, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters on Tuesday.

"We are aware that their lawyer has reported this date," Clinton said in response to a question. "We continue to express our hope that the Iranian authorities will exercise the humanitarian option of releasing these two young men."

Sarah Shourd, an American hiker who was detained for more than a year in Iran, was released last month after being held with two friends on suspicion of spying after crossing into Iran from Iraq.

The other two hikers, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, remain in Iranian custody. The three were detained near the Islamic Republic's border with Iraq in July 2009. Under Iran's Islamic law, espionage can be punished by execution.

Since her departure from Iran on September 14, Shourd has said the three were innocent hikers who never intended to cross into Iran. Clinton told reporters there was no reason to detain the two men.

The case has further complicated relations between Tehran and Washington, which are strained over Iran's nuclear program. The United States accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.

On Saturday, Iran released Iranian-American businessman Reza Taghavi, who had been held for 2 1/2 years in the same Tehran jail as the hikers on accusations of giving money to an outlawed anti-government group. Taghavi said Iranian authorities eventually agreed he had been duped into handing money to the U.S.-based group.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

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