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Iran closes US hikers espionage case

However, the court won’t deliver its verdict until during the week, dampening hopes for their immediate release.

27 July, 2011: Sarah Shourd, a hiker freed by Iran, and Alex Fattal, brother of hiker Josh Fattal, who, along with Shane Bauer, have been detained since July 2009 in Iran, are interviewed in New York.
27 July, 2011: Sarah Shourd, a hiker freed by Iran, and Alex Fattal, brother of hiker Josh Fattal, who, along with Shane Bauer, have been detained since July 2009 in Iran, are interviewed in New York.
Image: AP Photo/Richard Drew

THE LAWYER for two Americans jailed in Iran on charges of espionage said today that the court will announce its verdict within a week, dashing hopes for their immediate release after a final hearing in the case.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have been held in Iran’s Evin Prison since shortly after their arrest along the border with Iraq exactly two years ago today. The case has added to tensions between the US and Iran, a relationship already strained by issues such as Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme.

The Americans’ lawyer, Masoud Shafiei, had hoped that today’s final court session would result in their immediate release because it coincided with the two-year anniversary of their arrest and came near the start this week of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, when pardons are traditionally handed down.

Shafiei said he and the two men presented closing arguments in their defence and the court announced the end of its hearings.

“The judge said the court will announce its verdict about my clients within one week,” Shafiei told the Associated Press.

He said he was still hopeful that, if found guilty, they would be sentenced to time already served and released.

Bauer’s fiance, Sarah Shourd, was arrested with them on 31 July, 2009, but was released last year on $500,000 bail. She did not return to Iran for the rest of the trial, but Shafiei said he delivered a defence for her as well on Sunday.

The Americans deny the charges and say they were only hiking in a scenic and largely peaceful area of northern Iraq near the Iranian border. While other parts of Iraq remain troubled by violence, the semiautonomous Kurdistan region has drawn tourists in recent years, including foreign visitors, to its scenic mountains.

- AP

Read: Iranian man due to be blinded over acid attack pardoned by victim >

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