Iranian Courts Still Considering Bauer, Fattal Case

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 at 7:12 am

Yesterday it was widely reported that a $500,000 bail had been set for Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, the two Americans convicted of spying in Iran. Now, a political power struggle in Iran could delay or derail that development. Iran’s powerful judiciary says the bail is still under review. This is a potentially embarrassing rejection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s prediction that their release could be in a matter of days.

The statement by the hard-line judiciary appears to be a message that only its officials can set the timetables and conditions on any possible release and not the president, who is locked in a bitter power struggle with Iran’s ruling clerics who control the courts.

It also could be a swipe at Ahmadinejad’s hopes of timing the release the Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal with his expected arrival in New York next week for the U.N. general assembly.

Yesterday, Bauer and Fattal’s defense lawyer said that the court handling the case had set a bail of $500,000 each for the Americans, who were detained in July 2009 while hiking along the Iran-Iraq border. A third American, Sarah Shourd, was released last year on that same bail — but only after similar mixed messages between Ahmadinejad and the judiciary over the timing.

In the end, Shourd left Iran on a private jet to the Gulf state of Oman just as Ahmadinejad was heading for New York.

The judiciary statement suggests that the bail plan for Bauer and Fattal still needs to be approved by the higher ranks Iran’s legal system, which include members of the theocracy’s inner circle.

The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the statement as saying the “two American citizens charged with espionage have not been released. Request from lawyers of these two defendants to issue bail and free (them) is under study,” The statement concluded “Information about this case will be provided by the judiciary. Any information supplied by individuals about this is not authoritative,” which was a clear jab at Ahmadinejad.

Bauer and Fattal, both 29, were sentenced last month to three years each for illegal entry into Iran and five years each for spying for the United States. They have denied the charges and appealed the verdicts. Bauer’s mother, who lives in Pine City, and the rest of their families will continue to wait and hope that some resolution will come soon.

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