US 'deeply disappointed over Iran hikers' sentence: Clinton

DVBP531 4 JP 0469 USA /AFP-VP69 Iran-US-hikers-trial-diplomacy-State lead US 'deeply disappointed over Iran hikers' sentence: Clinton WASHINGTON, Aug 21, 2011 (AFP) - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday she was "deeply disappointed" over the eight-year prison sentence given to two Americans who have said they had strayed unwittingly into Iran. "We are deeply disappointed that Iranian judicial authorities have sentenced Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal to eight years in prison," Clinton said. "We continue to call and work for their immediate release -- it is time for them to return home and be reunited with their families." Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi on Sunday confirmed that Iran has sentenced two American hikers to eight years in prison each for illegal entry and espionage, Iranian media reported. Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, both 29, were arrested with fellow American Sarah Shourd, 32, on the unmarked border between Iran and Iraq on July 31, 2009. Shourd was freed on medical grounds in September and returned to the United States. The trio claim they were hiking in Iraq's northern province of Kurdistan when they innocently strayed into the Islamic republic. Clinton added in her statement that: "I join President Obama and the people of the United States in expressing our unflagging support for Shane, Joshua, Sarah and their families during this difficult time." Washington has vehemently denied Tehran's charge that the three were spies and has repeatedly called on Iran to release Bauer and Fattal. But Iran's Jafari Dolatabadi said Sunday that charges of illegal entry and espionage against the American hikers had been "proven" in the court, the official IRNA news agency reported. "Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have been each sentenced to eight years in jail by the branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court," ISNA quoted him as telling a news conference. "Five years for spying for the American intelligence services and three years for illegal entry into Iranian soil," he was quoted as saying by the Tehran-based Arabic Al-Alam television, adding that the verdict against the two men can be appealed in 20 days. "The case of Sarah Shourd who has been freed on bail is still open," Jafari Dolatabadi added, referring to the other American who was arrested along with her fiance Bauer and Fattal on July 31, 2009. The lawyer of the Americans also confirmed the verdict but said he will appeal. "I was just at the court and unfortunately the verdict is as announced by the prosecution," Masoud Shaffi told AFP Sunday. "In this period (20 days) I will use all the legal means at my disposal to reclaim their rights, because I believe that my clients are innocent," he said. sf-bur/sg/jm AFP 211350 GMT AUG 11