Iran judge won't sign "hikers" release before Tuesday: lawyer

TEHRAN Sun Sep 18, 2011 11:37am EDT

Masoud Shafie, lawyer for the three U.S. hikers charged with spying after they were arrested near Iran's border with Iraq, talks to the media outside the revolutionary court in Tehran September 17, 2011. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Masoud Shafie, lawyer for the three U.S. hikers charged with spying after they were arrested near Iran's border with Iraq, talks to the media outside the revolutionary court in Tehran September 17, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazl

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - The lawyer for two U.S. men convicted of spying in Iran said on Sunday their release could be delayed until Tuesday as the judge in the case was on vacation.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a U.S. television interviewer last week that Shane Bauer, 28, and Josh Fattal, 29, would be freed in coming days in a humanitarian gesture ahead of his trip to the United Nations in New York.

The Gulf State of Oman has sent a plane to Iran to pick up the Americans, a foreign ministry official said on Friday.

The men were arrested on the border with Iraq in 2009 where they said they were hiking. They were found guilty of illegal entry and espionage and were sentenced last month to eight years in prison.

The deal to release them still has to be signed off by Iran's judiciary, which said on Wednesday the release was not imminent, reflecting a rift between the country's ruling hardline elites.

Lawyer Masoud Shafie said he was seeking a signature from the judge to secure their freedom.

"We have to wait until Tuesday when the judge will be back, so that he can sign the documents," Shafie told Reuters.

He said last week the men would be released on $500,000 bail each. A third American, Sarah Shourd, was arrested with the men but was allowed home on $500,000 bail in September 2010.

Shourd's release was similarly delayed for several days by the judiciary after it had been announced.

Washington has denied the three Americans were spies and their supporters complain that no evidence against them has been made public. Their trial took place behind closed doors.

Ahmadinejad's announcement, to U.S. media, that the men would be freed was seen by analysts as a bid to improve his international standing ahead of the U.N. General Assembly meeting which starts on Wednesday.

Neighbouring Iraq said it has helped to mediate the release.

"I predict that before the visit of Dr. Ahmadinejad to New York, they will be freed," Nazem Dabbagh, the Iraqi envoy to Iran, told Reuters TV.

"Maybe (the timing of the release) is because Iran wants to show its good will while he is there, and for news to be hot and to be announced as the conference is taking place."

The Iraqi envoy said the detainees were expected to be handed over to the Swiss embassy in Iran, which represents U.S. interests in Tehran.

(Reporting by Sanam Shantyaei; Writing by Ramin Mostafavi; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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Comments (4)
rick121x wrote:
A “humanitarian gesture”? To charge $500,000 bail? Seems rather more like a commercial “grab”. Or might I simply not understand “Middle-Eastern” customs?

Sep 18, 2011 12:35pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
toby3061 wrote:
My question is: who will end up paying the 1.5 million dollars to bail out the 3 people who did not have to common sense to stay the hell away from a country with an 8th century rule of law based on a flat earth and 72 virgins?

Sep 18, 2011 12:46pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Tiu wrote:
A million bucks (half mill each) is chump change from the US tax payer to free a couple of Mossad assets. I’m sure all US citizens will think it’s money well spent.

Sep 18, 2011 12:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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