Iran approves release of U.S. citizens convicted of spying

September 21st, 2011 - 5:22 pm ICT by BNO News  

TEHRAN (BNO NEWS) — Iran’s Judiciary on Wednesday approved the release on bail of two U.S. citizens who were sentenced last month for espionage and illegal entry, state-run media reported. Their release is expected within hours.

Defense lawyer Masoud Shafiee told Iran’s Fars News Agency that the judge of Branch 36 of the Court of Revision issued a decree on Wednesday morning for the release of Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal on $500,000 bail. “These two individuals will be released to the Swiss embassy in Tehran at 3 p.m. local time (10:30 GMT),” Shafiee was quoted as saying by Fars.

Other details were not immediately released, but the news comes just a week after the Public Relations Department of Iran’s Judiciary rejected remarks by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Bauer and Fattal would be released ‘in a couple of days’ as a humanitarian gesture. The department at the time said it was still examining pleas by lawyers of the two defendants for their release on bail.

Last month, Iran sentenced Bauer and Fattal to eight years in prison after they were convicted of espionage and illegal entry. The news shattered earlier hopes in the United States that Iran would release the two as sentencing took place during the Holy month of Ramadan, which is also a time of forgiveness.

Bauer and Fattal were arrested in July 2009 along with Sarah Shourd when they crossed the border in Iraq’s Kurdistan region into Iran. Iranian prosecutors charged them with entering the country illegally and having links to U.S. intelligence, a claim which the defendants and their families have repeatedly denied.

According to the detained Americans, they were hiking in Iraq when they unknowingly crossed the unmarked border into Iran where they were arrested by border guards. Iranian prosecutors have rejected those claims, saying there is ‘compelling evidence’ that they are spies.

Shourd was released on September 14, 2010, after 14 months of imprisonment. She was released on a $500,000 bail on ‘medical concerns,’ although no details were provided. Shourd has since returned home to the United States and does not plan to return to Iran to face trial.

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