Tehran’s Prosecutor General has confirmed the eight-year prison sentences for Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, the two American citizens detained in Iran since 2009 for illegal entry.
According to an ISNA report, Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi announced that each man has been sentenced to eight years in prison, which they can appeal in court.
Jafari Dowlatabadi added: “The case against Sarah Shourd remains open; she has said, however, that she will not return to Iran, but we do not believe that she needs to be here for the prosecution to proceed; we can try her in absentia.”
Bauer, Shourd and Fattal were arrested in the Iran-Iraq border regions for “illegal entry” in July of 2009. Iranian authorities later added espionage to their charges, but the Americans maintain that they were on a hiking trip and accidentally strayed into Iranian territory.
Shourd was released for medical reasons last September after posting bail of $500,000.
Yesterday, Iranian state television quoted “a knowledgeable source” to report that Fattal and Bauer had been sentenced to three years in jail for illegal entry and another five years for spying for the United States. The report was not confirmed by judicial sources yesterday.
Under Iranian law, an espionage conviction can carry up to 10 years in prison while illegal entry can draw anywhere from six months to three years.
Victoria Nuland, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman, said officials there were trying to get confirmation of the court sentence through the Swiss embassy in Iran. She added: “We have repeatedly called for the release of Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, who have now been held in Iran’s Evin prison for two years.”
The Iranian foreign minister recently expressed hope that the trial of the two U.S. citizens “held for illegal entry” would result in their release.
Their harsh sentences are further indication of the rift between the Ahmadinejad administration and the judiciary, which is heavily influenced by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic.