Iran’s judiciary says US hikers aren’t being released

Posted Sept. 14, 2011, at 8:47 p.m.

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s judiciary on Wednesday denied President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statements that two American hikers convicted of spying were being pardoned and would be released within two days.

In a statement published in Farsi on its Web site, the judiciary, which constitutionally is independent from other powers in Iran, said it was “not correct” that Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal would be released in the coming days under a “unilateral pardon” that Ahmadinejad said Tuesday he intended to grant.

However, there were signs Wednesday of efforts to put up the $1 million bond that the hikers’ lawyer said court officials told him would be required to gain the release of the two men. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the Persian Gulf state of Oman had dispatched a private plane to Tehran, as the lawyer and the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. diplomatic interests in Iran , moved ahead with arrangements for the bond of $500,000 each for Bauer and Fattal.

In September 2010, a private jet was sent from Oman to Tehran to pick up Sarah Shourd, an American arrested with Bauer and Fattal, after Iranian authorities decided to release her on medical and humanitarian grounds.

The Obama administration pressed for additional information about the fate of the two men, but details remained scant. State Department officials said Wednesday that they were encouraged by the initial reports about the pending release but that they had heard nothing definitive from Iran or the Swiss government.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll see a positive outcome,” said spokesman Mark Toner.

Bauer and Fattal, both 29, were arrested with Shourd as they hiked along the Iran-Iraq border in July 2009. Last month, the men were sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of espionage.

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