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Iran Sentences Americans To Eight Years In Jail For Espionage, Illegal Entry

Shane Bauer (left) and Josh Fattal in a Tehran court in February

Shane Bauer (left) and Josh Fattal in a Tehran court in February

The chief Iranian prosecutor has confirmed eight-year jail sentences for two U.S. citizens arrested along the Iran-Iraq border nearly two years ago.

Local state-run news agencies report that Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were given three years for "illegal entry" into the country and five additional years on charges of "espionage."

Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi was quoted as saying the two have 20 days to appeal. It is not immediately clear if the sentences include time served.

A third American arrested with the pair, Sarah Shourd, has yet to receive a verdict.

Shourd, Bauer's fiancee, was released on $500,000 bail on medical grounds in September 2010 and is now in California.

Earlier, the Americans' lawyer, Masud Shafii, had expressed hope for the release of his clients after Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on August 6 he hoped the trial of Bauer and Fattal would lead to their "freedom."

Bauer, Fattal, and fellow U.S. citizen Sarah Shourd were apprehended by Iranian guards near the unmarked border with Iraq in July 2009.

Sarah Shourd
The three pleaded not guilty at a closed-door hearing on February 6, saying they strayed into Iranian territory by mistake while hiking in a scenic area in northern Iraq.

They had been awaiting a verdict following another trial hearing on July 31.

U.S. officials have dismissed any suggestions that the three Americans were spies.

The case has added to tensions between the United States and Iran that were already high over other issues, including Tehran's disputed nuclear program. The two countries have no direct diplomatic relations, so Washington has been relying on an interests section at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran to follow the case.

In June, relatives of the two men alleged their loved ones were being subjected to psychological torture, physical abuse, and a lack of due process in Iran.

In May, U.S. boxing legend Muhammad Ali and several other prominent U.S. Muslims sent a letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatolah Ali Khamenei saying that the men should be released on the basis of compassion and kindness “following the example of Prophet Muhammad.”

with agency reports

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