No verdict in final trial for American hikers in Iran

August 1, 2011 7:24:56 AM PDT
Two Berkeley graduate students being held in Iran on spy charges are going to have to wait a little longer to find out if they will be released. Those hikers were hoping to be freed after this weekend's court hearing, but now their lawyer says a verdict won't be announced until later this week.

The imminent release of the remaining two hikers is in no way assured according to some observers. It comes down to what serves the Iranian government more: Releasing them next week, or adding a few more months to their sentence to show that they are not caving in to public opinion.

It's been two years to the day that three American hikers were arrested on the Iranian border for spying and entering the country illegally.

On Sunday, a judge announced that a decision on their future will be revealed within the next week.

"My sense is, that I am cautiously optimistic, that the regime has decided to let these people go," said Stanford professor Dr. Abbas Milani. "It is trying to find a face-saving mechanism."

Milani is the director of Iranian studies at Stanford and thinks that the government will release Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer during the observance of Ramadan, a month of peace, forgiveness and festivals for Muslims.

However, journalist Omid Memarian is not as optimistic.

"We have had three Ramadans over the past years and they have not been released," Memarian said.

Memarian referred the families of both men to an Iranian attorney two years ago when the men, along with colleague Sarah Shourd, were arrested along the Iranian border with Iraq. The government has accused the three of spying.

The families of the three were allowed to visit them briefly during their incarceration, and Shourd was eventually released on humanitarian grounds and $500,000 bail. Shourd has refused to go back to Iran for the new sentencing.

"I think over the past few years, the Iranian government was hoping to get something out of this politically from the U.S. government, but they don't see any positive signs from the U.S.," said Milani.

Both Memarian and Milani say the government is actually bending to public opinion while saving face. They say that's why recent discussions regarding the hikers by the government have been so low key.

Memarian says the Iranian lawyers have told him prosecutors have not been able to support the allegations of spying. Illegal entry into Iran carries a sentence of one to four years in jail.

Memarian says a sentence of two and a half years for the hikers could help the government save face.


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