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(New York) – Amid conflicting messages about the possible release of two Americans held in an Iranian prisoner since 2009, Amnesty International today repeated its demand that Iran free them without delay.
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday that the imprisoned U.S. nationals Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal would be released within two days. However, this statement was contradicted today by the Iranian judicial authorities, who said that no decision has been made, and that any release would take “a bit longer” than the President suggested.
The pair was arrested while hiking in the Iraq-Iran border area in July 2009. They were detained in a Tehran prison for more than two years before a court recently sentenced them to eight years in prison for “illegal entry” and “espionage”.
“The Iranian authorities must stop treating Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal as pawns – both in their dealings with the U.S. government and in domestic political rivalries,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“The two men must be released immediately and unconditionally, and be promptly allowed to leave Iran to be reunited with their families.”
The conflicting messages from Iran on the pair’s release come ahead of President Ahmadinejad’s planned attendance at the annual U.N. General Assembly session in New York.
“All available evidence and the authorities’ conduct throughout the trial strongly suggests that the Iranian authorities have known all along that these men were not spies. Rather, it appears they were probably held in order to try to gain political concessions from the U.S.,” said Luther.
“The circumstances of their arrest remain murky, and their lengthy pre-trial detention and flawed trial are glaring signs of the government’s political motivations.”
During more than two years in detention at Tehran’s Evin Prison, Bauer and Fattal have been granted only one brief family visit in May 2010.
They were denied adequate access to their lawyer and had very limited access to consular assistance.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.