Arab Today, arab today iran sets new hearing date for us hikers
Last Updated : GMT 16:22:08
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

Iran sets new hearing date for US hikers

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Iran sets new hearing date for US hikers

Tehran - AFP

Iran has set a date of July 31 for the next hearing in the trial of two American hikers who have been held for around 22 months in the Islamic republic on espionage charges, their lawyer told AFP on Monday. \"I have received official notification to be ready in court on July 31 at 10 am (0530 GMT) to defend my clients,\" Masoud Shafii told AFP, adding that the new hearing date coincides with the second anniversary of their arrest. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 28, were arrested along with Sarah Shourd, 32, on the unmarked border between Iran and Iraq on July 31, 2009. Iran has accused the three hikers of \"spying and illegally entering the country.\" They have pleaded not guilty to spying charges, saying they were hiking in Iraq\'s northern province of Kurdistan when they innocently strayed into Iran from across the unmarked border. Shourd is being tried in absentia after she returned to the United States when she was freed on humanitarian and medical grounds in September 2010, paying bail of around 500,000 dollars. Washington has vehemently denied Tehran\'s charges and has pressed for their freedom. The trial has been hit by a number of delays since November 6, 2010, but then postponed to February 6, 2011 due to what was termed \"an error in the judicial proceedings.\" Another hearing scheduled for May 11, 2011 was cancelled after Shourd and Bauer were not brought to court, Shafii said then. Shourd, who failed to attend the February 6 hearing, told AFP in Washington that she will not return to join the other two in the dock. She said she had sent Iran\'s revolutionary court a five-page evaluation by a clinical forensic psychologist, who concluded she was at high risk of psychological problems if she returned to face espionage charges. \"I\'ve emailed the families and Sarah. This time the notification that I have received did not demand her (Shourd\'s) presence it just said to be ready to defend all three,\" Shafii added on Monday. Shafii said that he is yet to meet Bauer and Fattal as the court has not authorised meeting with his clients yet. He has only met Bauer and Fattal twice, last on February 6, 2011 when they appeared in court for their first hearing. The detention of the three has added to the animosity between arch-foes Tehran and Washington, which have deteriorated over Iran\'s controversial nuclear drive and outspoken remarks by hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Shourd, a teacher, writer and women\'s rights activist, grew up in Los Angeles and later moved to Damascus where she met Bauer and reportedly worked on a project to help Iraqi students attend US colleges. Bauer is a fluent Arabic-speaking freelance journalist who met Shourd while helping to organise anti-US demonstrations in Syria aimed at criticising the war in Iraq. They were engaged while in jail in Tehran. Fattal, who grew up in Pennsylvania, is an environmentalist and teacher and had travelled to Damascus in 2009 where he met Shourd and Bauer. Their case has drawn attention in US. On May 24 the legendary Muslim boxing champion Muhammad Ali came to Washington supporting a call for Iran\'s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to free two American hikers imprisoned in Iran. Khamenei has the final say the Islamic republic.

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