AFP: The lawyer of detained US hikers in Iran told AFP Thursday that he has sought judiciary permission to meet his clients after their family raised concerns the two men could be on a hunger strike.
by Farhad Pouladi
TEHRAN, May 19, 2011 (AFP) – The lawyer of detained US hikers in Iran told AFP Thursday that he has sought judiciary permission to meet his clients after their family raised concerns the two men could be on a hunger strike.
“I wrote a letter to the judge of the case and the chief judiciary three days ago … for immediate access to them in light of rumors of the duo going on hunger strike,” Masoud Shafii told AFP.
Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were arrested along with Sarah Shourd, 32, on the border between Iran and Iraq on July 31, 2009. They insist they lost their way while on a hiking trip.
In a statement released overnight, the families of Fattal and Bauer, both aged 28, raised concerns that the two men with whom they have had no contact for months, have begun a new hunger strike to protest against their prolonged detention.
The statement said the mothers of the two men have “begun a hunger strike in solidarity with their sons today,” indicating that the detainees were on a fresh hunger strike as they had done repeatedly in the past.
Shafii recalled that “Sarah told us that during her detention they went on hunger strike three times, so with that experience they may be on hunger strike. They have the reason for it.”
He added that he had also asked for an explanation as to why Bauer and Fattal were not brought to court on May 11, forcing the cancellation of a second hearing in their case.
Shafii last saw them on February 6 when they appeared in court for their first hearing.
Shourd is being tried in absentia after she returned to the United States when she was freed on humanitarian and medical grounds in September, following a bail of around $500,000.
Iran has accused the three of “spying and illegally entering the country.”
The trio have pleaded not guilty to the spying charges and maintain they innocently strayed into Iran across the unmarked border with Iraq.
Washington too has vehemently denied Tehran’s charges and has pressed for their freedom.
Shafii said that he has “asked the judiciary to allow the Swiss ambassador to meet with them.”
Swiss embassy officials in Tehran, representing US interests in Iran, have insisted they have been unable to meet the detained hikers since October. They were also banned from attending the February court hearing.
The trial has been hit by a number of delays. It was first scheduled for November 2010 but then postponed to February 6 due to what was termed “an error in the judicial proceedings.”
Shafii also complained about the lack of cooperation of the judiciary with him.
“Also my access to the judge of the case has become more difficult; there is a kind of harassment in this,” he said with no elaboration.
The detention of the three has added to the animosity between arch-foes Tehran and Washington, which have deteriorated over Iran’s controversial nuclear drive and outspoken remarks by hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.