Trial of US hikers begins in Iran

TEHRAN, IRAN: The trial of three American citizens held in Iran for illegal entry and charged with espionage began behind closed doors on Sunday, state-run Press TV reported.

Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd have pleaded not guilty after Iranian authorities charged them of entering the country illegally and having links to U.S. intelligence. Shourd was not present at the first session of the trial; however, her lawyer submitted a statement on her behalf.

The Tehran Prosecutor's office says it has "compelling evidence" that the detainees were cooperating with US intelligence agencies.

Shourd, 32, was released on September 14 after posting a $500,000 bail. She was arrested along Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, both aged 28 in July 2009 after they were hiking in Iraq's Kurdistan region and they crossed into the Islamic nation.

After her release, Shourd returned to the United States after meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at her own request to plea for the release of her fiancé Bauer and friend Fattal.

Last year, President Obama told Shourd he would continue to work and do everything possible to secure the release of the other hikers as his administration remains hopeful that Iran "will do the right thing" and release the other detained Americans in Iran.

No date has been confirmed for the next court session.


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