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US hikers enter Iran on "espionage mission": minister

(Xinhua)

11:05, August 23, 2011

TEHRAN, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Iran's Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi said that two detained U.S. hikers entered Iran in 2009 with prior planning and with the purpose of spying, the local satellite Press TV reported on Monday.

Following investigations and interrogation by Iran's Intelligence Ministry, it became quite clear that the arrested American nationals were on an espionage mission, Moslehi was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Tehran's Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi confirmed Sunday the earlier reports that the detained U.S. hikers, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, were sentenced to eight years in prison on the charges of illegal entry into the country's territory and espionage.

The prosecutor said the two Americans have 20 days to appeal, but the case of their fellow Sarah Shourd, who was released last September on bail and returned home, is still open.

The three U.S. nationals were arrested in Iran on July 31, 2009 for illegally entering Iran's western border and were later charged with espionage. The U.S. government considered the charges totally unfounded.

The female hiker Sarah Shourd, once jailed in Iran with the other two Americans, was released by Tehran's prosecutor in September 2010 on a bail of 500,000 U.S. dollars due to her health situation.

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