Iran Charges 3 American Hikers With Espionage

In what is bound to be seen as another step in Iran’s increasingly deteriorating relations with the United States, Iran has charged 3 American hikers with espionage:

Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, reports three detained U.S. citizens have been charged with espionage.

Tehran’s general prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi said Monday that investigations are continuing.

The three Americans were detained on July 31 for entering Iran illegally, after they apparently strayed across the border while on a hike in northern Iraq.

CNN reports:

The announcement of the charges comes only days after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met privately with the families of Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal, who were detained along the Iran-Iraq border at the end of July.

Tehran’s prosecutor general, Abbas Ja’afari Dolatabadi, announced the charges in an interview with the official Iranian news agency IRNA.

“The charge against the three U.S. citizens who were arrested on the Iran-Iraq border is espionage. Investigation of their cases is in progress,” he told IRNA, adding: “There will be more to say [about them] soon.”

Dolatabadi also said a Danish journalism student who was arrested last week in Iran was still under investigation.

“A journalist must have an official permit from authorized officials,” he told IRNA. “Therefore, the investigation will continue. We have also requested information from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance [which accredits foreign journalists] and after they respond to our inquiry we will make our decision.”

AFP:

Family and friends of the three have said they were hiking in a mountainous border region in northern Iraq near a famous waterfall when they unintentionally strayed into Iran.

A friend of the trio, who would had travelled with them to Iraq for the hike and would have been with them at the time of their arrest but for a bout of illness, appealed to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week to free them as soon as possible.

“Mr President, by continuing to deprive Shane, Sarah and Josh of their liberty, Iran is working against some of the very causes it supports,” Shon Meckfessel wrote.

“Each of these three has a long and public record of contesting injustice in the world and addressing some of the inequities between rich and poor which you have spoken about through their humanitarian work in their own country and overseas.”

Meckfessel wrote that Bauer is a fluent Arabic speaker who “has focused on injustices in the Arab world, in Iraq and Palestine in particular,” and said Shourd helped rebuild homes after Hurricane Katrina, and helped poor people fight evictions from their homes in the United States.

He described Fattal as passionate about “justice, environmental sustainability and intercultural exchange.”

Iranian officials will likely care little about the letter. The three are essentially now international pawns: of iran lashing out at the United States, at Iranian officials for trying to use them for domestic consumption to raise the spectre of U.S. spies in Iran,or as bargaining chips to prod Washington in negotiations over issues between the two countries.

Clinton on Thursday repeated a call to the Iran government to release the American hikers on humanitarian grounds. “As a mother my heart went out to all of them. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to know that your child was in prison for now 100 days with very little contact between you and them,” she said.

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  • Silhouette

    Iran isn't lashing out at the citizens of the US as much as it is lashing out at technology. Might I suggest in the future that tourists not carry cellphones with camera/video capabilities? That's what all the fuss is about. And in this sense the iranian officials are on the same page with Rupert Murdock and backers who seek to limit the flow of information.

    Oppressive regimes are extremely hard to maintain in the face of the free flow of information. They all feel like they're swimming against the ever-strengthening current and losing ground. This scares the crap out of them and they're going to take action against technology. Again kids, just carry cellphones without cameras when “relaxing” in regions that are utterly not into you being there.

  • spirasol

    If it's true and we can accept the story at face value then I feel badly for the young people being held. On the other hand, we wouldn't say they were too bright to put themselves in that position. It is the USA that has such strict requirements that people may be “messed with” , deported, or held in detention for months on end. Their Arab American, some with citizenship, some with permanent status, and some on educational permit, are constantly messed with. But their are hundreds more rejected out right. So I would hardly say Iran is guilty of some unprecedented legal foot work to hold foreign students. Hell, anything Iran has done, we have done better, stronger, tighter, sometimes even killing the people we incarcerate. Don't get squeamish on me here………..We do ourselves a huge disservice by trying to sell the wonders of democracy in the middle east, when our actual behavior is actually quite different. We are excellent at doing the raping, pillaging, bombing, destroying part……the rendering, torturing, shoot first ask later part…………..If the CIA wanted to infiltrate new recruits would it be possible to send agents posing as students?

  • Silhouette

    The moral of the story is: Don't hike in areas engaged in hostilities with the US and its citizens.

    Like duh..

  • dduck12

    Will Bill go again?

  • JeffersonDavis

    I truly feel for these hikers and hope they get out of there. If Bill or Hillary can do it, God speed.

    However, I have a seemingly bad-taste question:

    Do they not teach Geography at UC Berkeley?