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US 'deeply disappointed' at Iran's sentencing of hikers

Two men who claim they accidentally wandered across the Iranian border have been sentenced for spying.

File photo dated 6 February 2011 of US hikers Shane Bauer, left, and Josh Fattal in court in Tehran.
File photo dated 6 February 2011 of US hikers Shane Bauer, left, and Josh Fattal in court in Tehran.
Image: AP Photo/Press TV, File

TWO US MEN who claim they accidentally wandered across the Iranian border while hiking with a friend in Iraq two years ago have been sentenced to eight years in prison for illegal entry and espionage.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal claim they did not realise they had crossed the border until they were arrested by Iranian authorities in July 2009. Their friend, Sarah Shourd, was released in September on $500,000 bail after serious concerns were raised over her health.

All three deny the charges.

Xinhua reports that Iran’s Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi said the men had entered Iran on purpose with the intention of spying.

A statement from the families of Bauer and Fattal said that they still hope for the pair’s release. Earlier this month Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said he hoped the trial of the men who had illegally entered Iran would “finally lead to their freedom”. The families had hoped his comments were an indication of the trial’s outcome.

However, both men were sentenced to three years for illegal entry into Iran and five for spying on behalf of the US. They have 20 days to appeal the sentences. Meanwhile, Shourd’s case is still open and she is being tried in absentia.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US was “deeply disappointed” with the sentencing and continues “to call and work for their immediate release”.

“It is time for them to return home and be reunited with their families,” she said in a statement.

Well-known personalities including Mia Farrow, Noam Chomsky, Mairead Maguire and Sean Penn are among those endorsing the ‘Free the Hikers’ campaign calling for the men’s release.

Iran has recently criticised the detention of several of its citizens in the US, particularly mother-of-two Shahrazad Mir Gholikhan. She has been sentenced to over five years for planning to smuggle night vision goggles into Iran despite a US embargo.

- Additional reporting by the AP

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