TEHRAN (BNO NEWS) — Iran has sentenced two American citizens to eight years in prison after they were convicted of espionage and illegal entry, prosecutors said on Sunday.
Several non-official Iranian media outlets had already reported on Saturday that the two American citizens were sentenced to prison, but the news was not confirmed until Sunday by Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi.
Dolatabadi said Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal were sentenced to eight years in prison after being found guilty, but added that they still have 20 days to appeal the verdict. The news shattered earlier hopes in the United States that Iran would release the two as sentencing took place during the Holy month of Ramadan, which is also a time of forgiveness.
Bauer and Fattal were arrested in July 2009 along with Sarah Shourd when they crossed the border in Iraq’s Kurdistan region into Iran. Iranian prosecutors charged them with entering the country illegally and having links to U.S. intelligence, a claim which the defendants and their families have repeatedly denied.
According to the detained Americans, they were hiking in Iraq when they unknowingly crossed the unmarked border into Iran where they were arrested by border guards. Iranian prosecutors have rejected those claims, saying there is ‘compelling evidence’ that they are spies.
Shourd was released on September 14, 2010, after 14 months of imprisonment. She was released on a $500,000 bail on ‘medical concerns,’ although no details were provided. Shourd has since returned home to the United States and does not plan to return to Iran to face trial.
In response to Sunday’s news, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States is “deeply disappointed” by the sentencing. “We continue to call and work for their immediate release – it is time for them to return home and be reunited with their families,” she said.
It was not immediately clear if Bauer and Fattal would receive credit for time already served.
Sunday, August 21st, 2011