Iranian authorities will announce a verdict and sentence within days in the case of two U.S. hikers arrested two years ago near an unmarked section of the Iran-Iraq border, their lawyer and court officials said Sunday after what appeared to be the final court hearing in the case.
On the anniversary of their July 31, 2009, arrest, Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal spent four hours at a hearing at the Tehran Revolutionary Court, where they face charges of espionage and trespassing.
“The last session was held,” Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei was quoted as saying by the state-owned Al Alam television channel. “The final defense of the accused was heard. The end of the legal examination was announced and the verdict will be issued soon.”
Bauer, a freelance journalist, Fattal and Sarah Shourd, all UC Berkeley graduates, were arrested by Iranian authorities while hiking in the scenic mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, near the Iranian border. Shourd, released last year on $500,000 bail, was tried in absentia Sunday.
Many observers hope that Iranian authorities will release the two, both 28, as a goodwill gesture at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Their lawyer, Masoud Shafii, said he was optimistic they would be sentenced to time served and released.
“The hearing officially finished, so according to law, the judge has to issue a verdict within a week,” he told The Times. “I do hope the verdict will be a two-year sentence, and that means immediate release.”
He said the court proceedings went well and that his clients were allowed to defend themselves and plead not guilty.
“We may see the verdict tomorrow or next Sunday,” said Christian Winter, an official with the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which represents American interests in the Islamic Republic in the absence of official relations between Iran and the U.S.
“In Iran, we have learned to be hopeful,” he said, “and inshallah [God willing], within the next the week, the hikers will be released.”
Mostaghim is a special correspondent.