Tehran, Iran (CNN) — The two U.S. hikers detained for two grueling years in Iran on spying charges have been sentenced to eight years in prison, state-run TV reported Saturday.
Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer each received five years for espionage — specifically “cooperating with the American intelligence service” — and three years for illegal entry, the IRINN reported, quoting an “informed” judiciary source.
They have 20 days to appeal their sentence, which was handed down by the Revolutionary Court, IRINN reported.
Fattal and Bauer and another person, Sarah Shourd, were seized on July 31, 2009 when they were hiking in the Iraqi Kurdish region and allegedly crossed into Iran illegally.
Shourd, Bauer’s fiance, was released last year because of medical reasons, but the two men remained imprisoned in Iran.
The case has exacerbated tensions between United States and Iran, longtime adversaries over the Islamic republic’s nuclear aspirations and Iran’s ties to anti-American militants in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
The United States has repeatedly called for their release. U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a recent statement Bauer and Fattal, held in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, “have been imprisoned too long, and it is time to reunite them with their families.”
World leaders, such as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have urged Iran to release the men.
Amnesty International noted that Bauer and Fattal have been granted one brief family visit when their mothers met with them in May 2010.
“They have been denied adequate access to their lawyer and have had very limited access to consular assistance,” the human rights watchdog said last month.
“Iranian authorities have ignored repeated appeals from the international community and the men’s families to release them and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has hinted that the hikers were being held as a bargaining chip to be used in Iran’s dealings with the United States.”
Iranian police said the Americans illegally entered Iran. The Tehran Prosecutor’s office has “compelling evidence” that the three were cooperating with U.S. intelligence agencies, Press TV has reported.
Shourd has said the hikers did not know they had crossed the border while hiking. Fattal and Bauer pleaded not guilty to the charges. The three are graduates of the University of California at Berkeley.
Their families have made urgent appeals to free the men and they formed a website to muster support for their release.
Their defense attorney, Masoud Shafiei, argued that his clients shouldn’t be regarded as spies because they don’t have the “characteristics and background of spies.”
Shafiei had said the time the two have spent in Iranian custody is enough, even if the court reached a guilty verdict in a recent hearing.
Shourd was released in September and returned to the United States after 410 days of solitary confinement.
She remained a defendant in the case, but was not required to appear in court for a July 31 hearing
- Iran sentences U.S. hikers to eight years in prison (cnn.com)
- Iran jails U.S. hikers for spying (cbc.ca)
- Iran gives US men eight-year sentences for spying (msnbc.msn.com)
- Iran sentences American hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal to eight years in prison (telegraph.co.uk)
- A week later, American hikers in Iran await verdict (cnn.com)
- Verdict on US hikers expected within a week (cbsnews.com)