Cal Grads to Be Tried in Iran

By Jessica Greene
|  Monday, Dec 14, 2009  |  Updated 12:28 PM PDT
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Cal Grads to Be Tried in Iran

Freethehikers.org

Joshua Fattal, Sarah Shourd and Shane Bauer have been held in Iran since July 31.

The nightmare is far from over for three UC Berkeley grads imprisoned in Iran.

Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27 were detained by Iranian authorities after crossing an unmarked border from northern Iraq in late July. The Iranian government charged all three with spying in November and now says they will put them on trial.

Relatives and the U.S. government have said all along that the trio accidentally strayed across an unmarked border during a hike in Northern Iraq. The family also referred to video taken by a fourth hiker that shows the three having fun on their vacation. They say it shows they posed no threat to anyone.

There are concerns that Iran could use Bauer, Shourd and Fattal as bargaining chips in talks over its nuclear program or in getting the return of Iranians they claim are missing.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki did not say when proceedings would begin or specify the charge other than to say the Americans had "suspicious aims." All three are still being interrogated, Mottaki said.

Even if the Americans are tried, however, there is still a chance they could be released fairly soon. Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison, before she was released on an appeal in May.

Bauer and Shourd had been living in Damascus, Syria -- he studying Arabic, she teaching English -- and both had done freelance journalism or writing online. Bauer's Web site lists his many articles. Bauer's writing has been published in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Nation and Mother Jones, among many others. Friends have described them as passionate adventurers interested in the Middle East and human rights.

Fattal had been overseas since January as a teaching assistant with the International Honors Program. His mother, Laura, declined to comment on Monday's announcement.

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