US hikers' lawyer hopes for Iran verdict in week
AFP / Farhad Pouladi

TEHRAN — The lawyer for three US hikers detained in Iran since 2009 for alleged spying said on Thursday he is "hopeful" of a verdict within the next week.

Sarah Shourd 32, her fiance Shane Bauer 28 and their friend Josh Fattal 28, were hiking in the mountains of northern Iraq close to Iran's border when they were arrested on July 31, 2009 after allegedly straying into Iranian territory.

Iran allowed Shourd to return home on bail of around 500,000 dollars in September 2010 on humanitarian and medical grounds.

"I am very optimistic and hopeful that with the court being understanding, the case will be resolved. I hope that the verdict is issued after this session," Masoud Shafii told AFP, referring to the May 11 hearing.

"The issue of espionage is irrelevant and, even if the issue of illegal entry sticks, then they have been in prison for 21 months which is longer than the minimum sentence of one year," he said.

"I think they should have not been arrested since the border area there is not clearly marked," Shafii added, ahead of next week's closed session.

Iran has accused the three hikers of "spying and illegally entering the country." The trio have pleaded not guilty to the spying charges and maintain they innocently strayed into Iran across the unmarked border.

"I met Josh and Shane during the first court session in the court and not before the court session as I was promised," the lawyer said, referring to a February 6 h... >>>

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