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Iran to try U.S. hikers on Wednesday, U.S. says

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American hikers Shane Bauer (L) and Josh Fattal attend the first session of their trial at the revolutionary court in Tehran in this February 6, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/PRESS TV

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2011 (Reuters) – Two Americans held in Iran on spying charges for nearly two years will go on trial on Wednesday, the State Department said on Tuesday, calling on Tehran to quickly resolve the case.

“We urge Iran to resolve this case as soon as possible. Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer have been in prison for almost two years, and it’s time to reunite them with their families,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

Fattal, Bauer, and American Sarah Shourd were arrested by Iranian forces on July 31, 2009, on suspicion of spying after crossing into Iran from Iraq.

Shourd, who was released on bail in September and returned home, has said they were innocent hikers and never intended to cross into Iran.

“We understand from our Swiss protecting power that Iranian authorities have confirmed May 11th as the new trial date,” Toner said. Switzerland looks after U.S. interests in Iran because the United States and Iran do not have diplomatic relations.

Iran delayed an earlier hearing that had been scheduled to start in November 2010.

“We, obviously, urge Iran to permit Josh and Shane unfettered access to legal counsel and immediate consular access by the Swiss protecting power,” Toner said.

Swiss intermediaries last visited the detained Americans in late October, he said.

In Tehran, a lawyer for the three Americans said on Monday it was unlikely that Shourd would return for the hearing.

Under Iran’s Islamic law, espionage can be punished by execution.

The case has further complicated relations between Iran and the United States, which are strained over Iran nuclear program. The United States accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

(Reporting by JoAnne Allen; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Copyright Reuters

Via NewsDaily

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Written by Nokgiir

May 11, 2011 at 6:17 am

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