A lawyer for three Americans who were detained in Iran in summer of 2009 for illegal entry says he is “hopeful” the court will finally issue a verdict next week, despite reports that Sarah Shourd, the one defendent which was released on bail and returned to the US, will not attend the trial set for May 11.

Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were detained in the border regions of Iran and Iraq in the summer of 2009 for illegally entering Iranian territory.

Shourd was finally allowed to leave Iran last September on a $500,000 bail for humanitarian and medical reasons.

The three Americans are accused of espionage and illegal entry. They deny the espionage charges and say they were hiking in the mountainous regions of Iraq and strayed inadvertently into Iran.

The Iranian lawyer for the three Americans told AFP: “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.”

Shafii said they should not have been arrested for illegal entry in the first place because the “border area is not clearly marked.”

Shafii also told AFP he has not yet been allowed to meet with his clients, even though the judge had agreed to allow them a meeting before the trial.

Referring to the Americans’ first trial date of February 6, Shafii told AFP: “I met Josh and Shane during the first court session in the court and not before the court session as I was promised.”

The trial was postponed after Shourd failed to appear at that session. However, Shafii says he has submitted a document to the judge that explains Shourd’s medical reasons for failing to return to Iran.

On Wednesday Shourd told the media: “There is a part of me that would like to go back and stand by Shane and Josh at this most difficult time. But, really, I’m afraid it would be too traumatic for me to go back after what I’ve been through in Iran.”