iran-usa-hikers (update 2, pix, tv)-0821-08
* Bauer and Fattal have already spent more than two years in
* Lawyer says has seen no evidence they were spies
* "Hikers" affair adds to tensions already high over nuclear
(Adds lawyers saying men informed of verdict)
By Mitra Amiri
TEHRAN, Aug 21 (Reuters) - The lawyer for two Americans
convicted of spying in Iran said on Sunday he would appeal their
eight-year sentence, which shocked their families who had
hoped to see them freed after more than two years already
spent in Tehran's most notorious jail.
Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were arrested on the border with
Iraq in 2009 where they said they were hiking. They were found
guilty of illegal entry and espionage, a verdict likely to
further strain Iran's already poor relations with Washington.
"We have 20 days to appeal and I will try my best to use all
legal means to annul the sentence," lawyer Masoud Shafiee told
"It was my belief, and still is, that they are innocent and
I have not seen any evidence that shows they are guilty."
Bauer, 28, and Fattal, 29, share a cell in Tehran's Evin
prison. They had pleaded not guilty to the charges at their
closed-door trial which ended on July 31.
" Josh and Shane were informed about the
verdict yesterday ," Shafiee said, adding that he had
not seen them in person. The two years they had already served
would count towards their 8-year sentences, he said.
They were arrested on July 31, 2009 near Iran's border with
Iraq, along with Bauer's girlfriend, Sarah Shourd, 32, who was
released on $500,000 bail in September and returned home to
California where she has been campaigning for their freedom.
Confirming a leaked report of the sentence ,
Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told a news
conference that no verdict had yet been passed on Shourd who did
not return to Iran to stand trial.
The "hikers" affair has heightened tensions between Tehran
and Washington, which cut diplomatic ties after the storming of
the U.S. embassy in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Several prominent public figures including boxer Muhammad
Ali and singer Yusuf Islam, both Western converts to the Muslim
faith, have called for their release.
The verdict was announced as Russia launches a fresh attempt
to find a diplomatic solution to a standoff over Tehran's
nuclear programme, which Washington says is aimed at making
atomic bombs, something Iran denies.
A Facebook page called "Free the Hikers" brimmed with
comments expressing shock and disgust at the ruling, and
offering prayers for the jailed men.
According to the Facebook page, Fattal was visiting Bauer
and Shourd in the Syrian capital Damascus where Bauer was
working as a freelance journalist when they decided to hike in
the mountains of neighbouring Iraq.
If they crossed the unmarked border into Iran, it was by
mistake, they have said.
Their trial took place behind closed doors and the evidence
against them has not been made public.
In a filmed interview posted on the website
freethehikers.org, Shourd said that after two initial months of
interrogations her questioner told her their case was on hold as
it was "political" and that she was caught in a "tug of war
between two countries".
Media speculated that Bauer and Fattal could be freed as a
goodwill gesture during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which
began on Aug. 1 and will end towards the end of this week on a
day that has yet to be announced by religious authorities.
Previously, Iranian officials had suggested the Americans
might be swapped for Iranians jailed in the United States, an
option rejected by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The semi-official Fars news agency reported that the family
of an Iranian woman whose detention in the United States has
been highlighted by some media as an example of unfair U.S.
treatment of Iranians will fly to visit her on Wednesday.
Shahrazad Mir Gholikhan, was sentenced in March 2009 to more
than five years in prison for brokering a deal to send
night-vision goggles to Iran in violation of a U.S. embargo.
(Writing by Robin Pomeroy)