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3 US ‘hikers’ accused of Iran spying go on trial
London, Feb 6 (Agencies):
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Published on 6 Feb. 2011 11:36 PM IST
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Three Americans accused of spying and illegally entering Iran have gone on trial in Tehran, with the proceedings being heard behind closed doors.
Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were arrested in 2009 as they were hiking near the Iran-Iraq border.
Ms Shourd was released on bail in September and returned to the US. She is expected to be tried in her absence.
The men’s lawyer said he had been unable to see them before the trial to prepare their defence.
The trial comes at a time of high tension between the US and Iran.
“I should have met with Shane and Josh to prepare the defence, but I was not allowed,” Masoud Shafii told the AFP news agency on Saturday.
“I have been told I might see them one or two hours before the trial.”
The trial had been due to take place last November but was postponed because Ms Shourd had not been summoned to attend.
Ms Shourd was freed on health grounds last year and returned to the US, under a $500,000 (£314,386) bail.
Iran has said she will forfeit bail money if she does not return to stand trial, but Mr Shafii said he did not expect her to be there.
The group was arrested in July 2009 while hiking in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region, near the Iranian border.
They are accused of crossing the border illegally but say that if they did so, it was by accident.
The charge of espionage, which can carry a death sentence, was added later.
The US has repeatedly said there is no basis for the trial and has called on Iran to release Mr Bauer and Mr Fattal. Iran considers the US to be its greatest enemy. Tensions between the two countries are high, partly because of a row over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme.

 
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