Bauer, Fattal Release Coming Soon?

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 at 8:17 am

The lawyer for two Americans jailed as spies in Iran was back in court Today seeking a second judge’s signature on a bail deal that could free Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal after more than two years behind bars.

Bauer and 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. 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 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 $500,000 each.

The official explanation for the latest snag was that a second judge whose signature is required on the bail papers was on vacation until Tuesday, their Iranian attorney has said. Masoud Shafiei told The Associated Press Tuesday 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,” Shafiei said.

A similar tussle between Iran’s president and his rivals also initially held up a deal to release an American woman who was also arrested with the men. Still, Sarah Shourd was freed in a similar bail deal last September with help from mediators from the Gulf nation of Oman. A delegation of U.S. Christian and Muslim leaders returned from Iran Monday disappointed they could not immediately secure the release of the two Americans still in custody. However, they were optimistic their release was imminent.

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