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Americans on trial for spying in Iran

Sarah Shourd misses opening of trial as she, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, face charges of entering Iran illegally and spying.

Shane Bauer, left, and Josh Fattal attending the opening of their trial in Tehran yesterday.
Shane Bauer, left, and Josh Fattal attending the opening of their trial in Tehran yesterday.
Image: AP Photo/Press TV

THE TRIAL OF THREE AMERICANS accused of entering Iran illegally and espionage has opened at the Tehran Revolutionary Court in Iran.

Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were arrested on 31 July 2009 near the Iran-Iraq border.

They claim they accidentally crossed the border into Iran while hiking in the area.

Shourd, 32, was released on bail by Iranian authorities in mid-September and allowed to return to the US. However, authorities said they expected her to return to face trial and said if she didn’t, it would affect her $500,000 bail. Since her release, she had been campaigning for her friends’ release and says she has felt only one-third free since leaving prison.

She was released on humanitarian grounds due to the deterioration of her health. Shourd is being tried in absentia, but Fattal and Bauer were present for yesterday’s hearing.

Iran’s Press TV reports today that the first session of the three Americans’ was held behind closed doors for several hours. A further hearing will be held, but no date has been fixed.

Last week, their defence lawyer Masoud Shafii told Reuters he believed his clients were not guilty and that the charges of espionage have no substance. He said that even if they had entered Iran illegally because the border is not marked, it was not their fault. Shafii says he will appeal any guilty verdict.

Shafii also said he had not seen his clients since Shourd was released and his requests to visit them have been repeatedly denied by Iranian authorities.

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