National/World

Iran unexpectedly delays trial of American hikers

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Iran suddenly postponed the start of the espionage trial of three American hikers without explanation. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal are still imprisoned in Tehran and did not appear in court Wednesday. The unexpected delay has left Sara Shourd, who returned to the U.S. after being released on bail, uneasy.

The American hiklers' attorney in Iran actually thought a verdict might come down Wednesday, but instead Iranian officials delayed the trial and are being very tight-lipped about the reason why.

"Shane and Josh are in extreme isolation, they could be sick, we have no guarantees they could be safe, we don't even have a sign they're alive," Shourd said. "We were hoping and praying for a resolution today and now we have more devastation, more letdowns."

Iranian officials arrested the three UC Berkeley graduates nearly two years ago, along the Iraq-Iran border, accusing them of spying. The three say they were hiking and accidentally wandered into the country. Shourd says they were equipped with only a camera, did not speak Farsi and she even lacked appropriate clothing.

"It's mandatory to wear a head scarf in Iran; they had to buy me one, the soldiers took me to a store before they took me to the police station," Shourd said.

Shourd was released after 14 months on $500,000 bail. The men have now been detained for 21 months.

"We're still just sort of reeling from the emotion, the disappointment," Shourd said. "I'm sure that's what Shane and Josh are doing sitting in their cells in complete devastation. Wondering, 'Why can't we go to court? Why can't we have a fair trial?'"

Professor Abbas Milani is director of the Iranian studies program at Stanford University. He has just authored a book on the last shah and is on the current regime's "enemies list."

"It is a regime that acts with absolute disregard for human rights and due process," Milani said.

Milani says Bauer and Fattal's fate will not be decided by a trial, but by someone at the top of the regime, which is right now preoccupied with severe in-fighting.

"They were innocent pawns before in the battle between the regime and the US, now they're innocent pawns in the battle between factions within the regime," Milani said.

Shourd was summoned to return for her trial, but is not going. She sent Iranian officials a psychological report saying her post-traumatic stress symptoms would be aggravated by a return. She says every indication is Iranian authorities are satisfied with that response.

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