Iran to try 'US spy suspects'

Americans detained near border with northern Iraq will be charged with espionage and entering the country illegally.

    The two male Americans have been held in a Tehran jail for more than a year [AFP]

    Iran has confirmed that three US citizens accused of spying after being arrested near the border with Iraq will face trial in November 6. 

    Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer have been held in a Tehran jail for more than a year, while the third American, Sarah Shourd, was released due to her ill health last month on $500,000 bail.

    They are facing charges of espionage and entering the country illegally, but the three friends have repeatedly said they mistakenly crossing the border while hiking in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

    "We will hand any evidence we have to the judiciary," Heidar Moslehi, the Iranian intelligence minister, said on Wednesday.

    Masoud Shafii, the three Americans' lawyer, said he had informed their families of the trial date.

    "The three are accused of espionage and illegally entering the country," he said, adding it was up to the family of Shourd, who returned to the United States on her release, to decide whether she should attend the trial or not.

    "If she is not present, it will hurt her bail. I cannot request that she be present. It is up to them to decide. I as a lawyer have only informed them of the time of the trial and I will execute my duty to defend the three," he said.

    After Shourd's release on bail, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, the Tehran prosecutor, warned that if she did not appear in court, the surety would be "seized" and she would be tried in absentia.

    Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, told reporters on Tuesday that she had heard Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal would be tried early November, but she still hoped they would be released.

    "We do not believe that there is any basis whatsoever for them to be put on trial and we regret that they and their families are being subjected to a criminal system that we do not think in any way reflects their actions," she said.

    "So it's our continuing request to the Iranian government that, just as they released the young woman, that they release these two young men," Clinton said, adding "it's unfortunate" the pair had been held for more than a year.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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