Sunday, February 6, 2011

Iran: the trial of three Americans accused of spying

TEHRAN - The trial of three Americans accused of espionage and illegal entry into Iran after their arrest now eighteen months on the border with Iraq, opened on Sunday before the Revolutionary Court in Tehran.
"The trial began at 10:00 local time (0630 GMT) under the leadership of Judge Salavati Abolghassem and takes place behind closed doors," said the official news agency IRNA. No indication was given by the authorities on the conduct and duration of the trial.
The first hearing will be continued in the afternoon, the office of the lawyer defending the accused, Mr. Massoud Shafii, who was present.
Only two out of three Americans, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, aged 28 years and still held in Tehran, appeared before the court, their companion Sarah Shourd, 32, who returned to the United States in September after being released for reasons health against a deposit of $ 500,000.
Ambassador of Switzerland, which represents U.S. interests in Iran in the absence of diplomatic relations between Washington and Tehran, tried in vain to attend the first hearing.
The three Americans were arrested July 31, 2009 Iranian territory after they said crossed the border by mistake while hiking in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Shafii me again rejected the charge of "espionage" weighing on its customers, also charged with "illegal entry" into Iran, telling AFP that he would plead their "innocence" and their immediate release.
"I studied the case in detail and the issue of espionage is baseless. The only issue is the illegal entry into Iran, even if this is true, was made in error because the border does is not marked "in the region where they were arrested," he said.
This offense is punishable by a maximum of three years imprisonment, which can be commuted into a fine, he said.
Washington has always denied the charge of espionage, calling repeatedly for the release of Americans.

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