x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Lawyer for two American hitchhikers held in Iran back in court

A second judge whose signature is required on the bail papers to free Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal was on holiday until yesterday, their Iranian attorney has said.

TEHRAN // The lawyer for two Americans jailed as spies in Iran was back in court yesterday seeking a second judge's signature on a bail deal that could free them after more than two years behind bars.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were detained along the Iran-Iraq border in 2009 and were convicted last month of spying for the United States in a case that has deepened the mistrust between Washington and Tehran. The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, raised hopes a week ago that the men, both 29 years old, could be released in a matter of days in what he described as a humanitarian gesture.

But months of internal political battles between Mr Ahmadinejad and his rivals in the clerical leadership and the judiciary appear to be holding up the possible deal to lift the men's eight-year prison sentences and free them on bail of US$500,000 (Dh1.84bn) each.

The official explanation for the latest snag was that a second judge whose signature is required on the bail papers was on holiday until yesterday, their Iranian attorney has said.

Masoud Shafiei said he was back in court awaiting the judge's return.

"After what I was told two days ago, I went to the court again today, but the judge who should sign has not turned up yet," Mr Shafiei said.