TEHRAN, Iran (WCCO/AP) — Two American men arrested more than two years ago while hiking along the Iraq-Iran border have been sentenced to eight years in prison on charges that include espionage, state TV reported Saturday, a sharp blow to hopes their release was imminent.

The announcement seemed to send a hard-line message from Iran’s judiciary — which answers directly to the ruling clerics — weeks after the country’s foreign minister suggested that the trial of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal could clear the way for their freedom.

It also was likely to raise speculation about Iran using the Americans as political bargaining chips and could bring added tensions to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s expected visit to New York next month for the annual General Assembly at the United Nations.

Authorities did not immediately confirm the report and made no further comment — although it was carried on Iran’s highly controlled state media, which is frequently used to make high-profile announcements.

In Washington, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland restated U.S. appeals for their release. “It is time to reunite them with their families,” she said.

Amy Klobuchar, a Senator from Minnesota, said Saturday afternoon that the information hasn’t been confirmed by the state department.

“In the past, there are times when these sentences have been handed down and then later there is compassion shown by the judiciary or the government, obviously that’s what we are hoping for here,” Klobuchar said. “But we still don’t know exactly what the sentence is and what the details are.”

A spokeswoman for the men’s relatives said only that the families were aware of the report and awaiting confirmation.

“They are asking for privacy during this difficult time,” Samantha Topping said.

The Americans, whose final court hearing was three weeks ago, deny the charges and say they were only hiking in a scenic and largely peaceful area of northern Iraq near the porous border.

They were detained in July 2009 along with a third American, Sarah Shourd, who was released in September 2010 on $500,000 bail and returned to the United States. Shourd’s case “is still open,” the state-run TV website irinn.ir reported. Since Bauer and Fattal have been in jail, they have seen their family only once.

“These two, day in and day out, they are very isolated. We just need to get them out of there, we need to continue to ask for compassion from the Iranian government,” Klobuchar said. “This just shouldn’t be happening. These were two hikers. They may have been hiking in a place most people wouldn’t dream of hiking, but they were there. And, they have no evidence at all to the contrary.”

Bauer and Fattal, both 29, have been sentenced to three years each for illegal entry into Iran and five years each for spying for the United States, the website quoted “informed sources” at Iran’s judiciary as saying. It was not immediately clear if that includes time served. They have 20 days to appeal the sentence.

Their Iranian attorney, Masoud Shafiei, said he has not been notified of the verdict but he will definitely appeal the sentence if true.

“I’ve not been notified of any verdict in the case of my clients,” Shafiei told The Associated Press. “This is a strong verdict inconsistent with the charges.”

It’s unclear what maximum sentence was possible by the Revolutionary Court, which handles state security issues. Espionage can bring the death penalty, but handing the sentence to a foreigner is unknown legal territory in Iran.

Iran insists that its judiciary is independent from political currents, but Iranian officials have used the detained Americans to draw attention to alleged mistreatment of Iranians in U.S. prisons and others who were held by U.S. forces in Iraq. The report on the sentences came just two days after President Barack Obama made his most direct call for the resignation of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who remains among Iran’s closest Mideast allies.

The case, meanwhile, has added to tensions between the United States and Iran that were already high over other issues, including Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.

But Iran also recognizes the potential for goodwill gestures. Shourd’s release — assisting with talks by Oman — came last year as Ahmadinejad was preparing for the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders.

The Americans say they mistakenly crossed into Iran when they stepped off a dirt road while hiking near a waterfall in the Kurdish region of Iraq. While other parts of Iraq remain troubled by violence, the semiautonomous Kurdish north has drawn tourists in recent years, including foreigners.

The U.S. government has appealed for the two men to be released, insisting that they have done nothing wrong. The two countries have no direct diplomatic relations, so Washington has been relying on an interests section at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran to follow the case.

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said he hoped “the trial of the two American defendants who were detained for the crime of illegally entering Iran will finally lead to their freedom.” Their lawyer also had expressed hope they might receive a pardon for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Shourd is back living in Oakland, California; Bauer grew up in Onamia, Minnesota; and Fattal is from suburban Philadelphia. The last direct contact family members had with Bauer and Fattal was in May 2010 when their mothers were permitted a short visit in Tehran.

Their case most closely parallels that of freelance journalist Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American who convicted of spying before being released in May 2009. Saberi was sentenced to eight years in prison, but an appeals court reduced that to a two-year suspended sentence and let her return to the U.S.

At the time, a spokesman for the Iranian judiciary said the court ordered the reduction as a gesture of “Islamic mercy” because Saberi had cooperated with authorities and expressed regret.

In May 2009, a French academic, Clotilde Reiss, also was freed after her 10-year sentence on espionage-related charges was commuted.

Last year, Iran freed an Iranian-American businessman, Reza Taghavi, was held for 29 months for alleged links to a bombing in the southern city of Shiraz, which killed 14 people. Taghavi denied any role in the attack.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (64)
  1. The Crux of the Buscuit says:

    That seems about right. They did, after all, get caught on a recon mission for the state department. And wouldn’t they be considered ‘illegal aliens’ anyhow? 8 years should make all of you ‘illegal alien’ haters out there pretty happy I should think.

    1. Debbie says:

      Thank you mr mustache!! 🙂

    2. Alan Colmes says:

      Thank you as well. NOTHING worse than a libturd except a libturd worshipping at the feet of the annointed one!!!

    3. Mike says:

      Mr Mustache, that would be a tea baggers delight!

  2. Stacy Nelson says:

    Just let them go, i’m tired of hearing about this in the news! Lol

  3. Hugh G Rection says:

    Hey Shane.
    What Josh?
    What do you want to do today?
    I dunno, what do you wanna do?
    Lets go take a hike in Iran.
    OK that sounds fun>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>The End

    1. Rubin says:

      Very funny post….

      What the hell were they thinking? I remember when they released her. She couldn’t thank the Iranian officials enough.

  4. zee the reporter says:

    What the hell are you hiking in Iran for!

    1. g8bbgg says:

      I agree. Check any travel sight, this is a hot spot. There are several warnings to STAY AWAY. What type of brain power does it take to go hiking in a war zone……Here is your sign ….”STUPID”. See ya (maybe) in eight years.

      1. patty says:

        Well, I guess these kids are really paying for being “STUPID.” And, how wonderful they are shown such compassion and mercy, especially from their fellow Americans. Your parents must be awfully proud to have such perfect people in the family.

    2. Geithner Sucks says:

      The same reason millions of smart Mexicans do it here!!

  5. jan says:

    Some people have to learn the hard way but it’s a damn shame that those two have to pay such a steep price for one mistake.

    1. Really? says:

      Too bad they don’t have a POTUS looking out for their welfare? As I learned it government’s main job is protecting it’s citizens.

      1. Guy says:

        Its governments job to protect INNOCENT citizens. If those citizens insist on doing something stupid (like going someplace that Americans are definitly NOT welcome); then they recieve the consequenses of that stupidity.

        Not every country coddles idiots like we do here.

  6. Bryan says:

    Neither one look like the sharpest knives in the drawer

    1. Hugh G Rection says:

      It’s dumb and dumber 2 the Iranian hike.

  7. Jeff Jensen says:

    WE live in the land of the free, not like that over there in the remotest sense….which leads to the question, just how stupid does a person have to be to go hiking in one of the most hostile areas in the world??? Let ‘ em rot!

    1. patty says:

      I hope their family and friends don’t read your comment.

      1. Guy says:

        I hope they DO. Maybe they’ll shut up about the fate of their inept contributions to the human gene pool. They coddled them and wiped their little noses and a$$es and didn’t teach them that the world is a mean nasty place. Now they have 8 years to learn what mommy never told them: “Don’t go where you are not welcome” unless you are armed & prepared to defend yourself.

  8. How Americans really feel says:

    As it’s said by the majorities all over the world, including the US, you three are idiots, brats, and dummies that think you can do anything you want – very similar to the 2o-somethings of the US today. You get what you deserve, and I personally hope they keep you for the whole 8 years. It’s people like you three (yeah, Sara Shroud – you should be ashamed of yourself, that in itself) that are the demise of a great nation called the USA. Start thinking about something other than yourselves, and start acting like the way Americans did 30 years ago. I spit in your faces…

  9. Great new for 3 spys says:

    Great, Now send that little b i t c h back to serve the time also. Her illness seems no issue sence she got back

    1. Forcefully put her on a jet destined for Iran says:

      No doubt! Furthermore, how will that sad excuse ever repay society for the $500,000 that some anonymous idiot paid to free her?! She NEVER will, but she’ll probably have no problem living under mommy and daddy’s roof getting boinked by her black, mindless, boy-toy for the rest of her stinking life.

  10. Deep Thinker says:

    I’m making plans to go hiking in North Korea, anybody want to go with?

  11. Nancy Aleshire says:

    The U.S. needs to take a strong stand against Iran. These two guys made an innocent mistake and need to be brought home. Can you imagine if it was illegal for Minnesotans to cross into other states and you can be picked up for crossing into Iowa. Bring Shane and Josh home now!!!!!

    1. Nancy Grace says:

      Nancy, the penalty for crossing into Iowa changes weekly. Last week the sentence included forced listening to Michelle Bachmann. It changes often, stay tuned.

      Meanwhile, let’s focus our resources on more productive adventures like the US economy and sending their female partner back to Iran for her trial and eventual 8 year sentence.

      To some this trial has a high emotional componment, to others not. Either way, they committed a crime and were sentenced in Iran. We have to respect their rules as they do ours. Go to the state department website and you will notice Iran is on the ‘do not travel’ list.

      1. Realy? says:

        And don’t forget the Barackbottom bus tour!! It can’t get worse than that!!! And the blame goes on!!! I really wish he would man up and get those boys home instead of blaming anything for his mistakes!!!!

        1. Nancy Grace says:

          They’re dead boys walking hon.

          Enjoy bingo tonight and don’t forget those new meds! We’re paying for them. Should we send someone up or are you going to roll down at 7:30?

          1. Nancy Grace says:

            I didn’t mean that!! I forgot I’m calling Bingo tonight. Sorry!!

            1. Nancy Grace says:

              Realy, did you want us to wheel you down sweetie? I’m calling the first two rounds. Don’t forget to have them put on new depends. You remember last weekend doll.

              1. Realy says:

                Yes ’em. But it’s cuz this new home is on the north side and i’ma little nervous up here yet.

              2. Nancy Grace says:

                I do remember. You lost all your food stamps on a round robin? Listen to me talking to myself!!!

  12. M B says:

    Wow… So many haters today… I think some people should spend some time looking into therapy if they have this much rage they need to outlet on others. Sounds like a bunch of Iran lovers posting their vents from an outside of view. You all sound like you believe the Iranian government (a dictatorial theocracy that hates the U.S.) more than ours,

    Granted, they weren’t all that bright for hiking NEAR the border in the first place, but with Iran’s history of Shoot first ask questions later, It wouldn’t surprise me if the guards did the same thing these posters did– spewed hate for the westerners– then decided to make them suffer, location of the actual border be danged.

  13. Shaddup and get a job you two says:

    See above –

    Obviously Nance and M B are out of touch with our hard working, law abiding, American society. You two outta’ start planning your commingling trip to Afghanistan – we 50%ers are hoping you do, and do soon…

  14. debbie says:

    My prayers are with these men and also with their mothers, i couldn’t imagine having my son’s in this situation!

    1. About time they were sentenced says:

      Then teach your son’s not to be idiots. They deserve what they go. Its to bad the other one lied to get sent home. She should be there with them.

      1. HUH!?!?! says:

        your a complete moron…

  15. Baroque Obummer says:

    They did something wrong and are going to pay now. Perceived or actual the reality has just been shipped. What is so difficult about accepting this verdict?

    Remember that mom can’t fix everything.

  16. Shawn says:

    The BUMS lost Lebowski!!!!

  17. MJ (a mom) says:

    Do not assume that these men did anything wrong. There are many versions of the story and most say that the Iranian soldiers actually crossed into Iran to arrest them! They are young and were hiking in a beautiful area. I hope the US is able to get them released. Their families have been tortured enough. Most of the comments posted show a lot of hate and anger. What is happening to this country when all anyone can write is hateful words?

  18. Suburban mom says:

    MJ,

    What they did is wrong. It got them in trouble even if you don’t think it’s wrong. The tragedy playing out here is the kids (like many now) lived with a false sense of self entitlement. Mom built that in them but mom couldn’t fix it. Sounds familiar? That only works in American suburbs and some school districts.
    I don’t think there’s as much hate for people as there is for a protected generation with false reality. All kids are not winners, or smart, and it goes on and on.
    Sadly the party is over for these two. Learn from this instead and save some poor future dummy from a similar fate. Teach reality to them with compassion. Your mom act wore out in the 90’s. We’re in a bad economy now you’ll have to change and hopefully grow. Just like Wisconsin teachers and other who try to bankrupt the whole system in disquise. Can you do that?

    My prayers are with them and you. They will likely not be back. Is ther hope for you?

  19. AMom says:

    Like so many things in life, its all about choices. I feel for the Mothers, but, these three made the wrong choices and found themselves in deep s***! Eight years is a long time, but maybe, theyll have learned to think before making stupid choices . Maybe they relied on their “good looks” to get out of this mess they created!!

    1. Bmom says:

      Amom,

      You make a good point about choices.

      8 years is irrelevant; they will not leave Iran alive. After Iran is done with them as political pawns they won’t be necessary anymore. Iran will feed it’s citizens before them. Reality check.

  20. Really? says:

    Dear Amy Klobuchar (And frequent co-host of the 10 a.m. Sunday news along with Keith Ellison),
    You and your illustrious leader (Insane) need to grow a set of cajones and get those innocent US citizens back. Why are you sitingback whining on TV about ho0w a mother feels? HELLO! This is government’s MAIN job is protecting it’s citizens!!!! NOT RAISING TAXES!!!
    Or will this be De Ja Vois all over again? When a non-democrat takes the white house on Jan. 20th, 2013 they will be magically released!! HOW IRONIC! History repeats itself!!

    1. Nancy Grace says:

      Someone hit a nerve?

  21. Really? says:

    I just took my meds and woke up. The nurse was right.

    I guess my freebies and come first and the economy second.

    Forget my earlier comments about those young goodballs comin’ a home.

  22. If you want to hike there, join the US Army. says:

    They’re morons. Who with half a brain goes hiking in a place like that? Total idiots. They deserve whatever happens to them. It’s just too bad Ms. Fake A Feminine Illness isn’t right there enjoying the time with them. Losers, all of them. I have zero sympathy for them.

  23. zee the reporter says:

    Sarah Shourd, how can you live leaving your friends behind you suck big time in my book!

  24. Former Iran Citizen says:

    There must have been good evidence that these subversives were spying for someone or the court wouldn’t have convicted them.

    Believe me, I was there in the 80’s and went to court on many traffic tickets. They overturned the ones that shouldn’t have been written without appealing to the shaw. A very impressive justice system they have.

    I feel sorry for these kids and their imminent deaths in prison. White, American prisoner with foolish appearances don’t do well in that system. Sorry.

  25. Sad says:

    They made a mistake, they are paying for it. Where is your compassion? I will pray for them and their families in this difficult time. No judgements.

    1. Sentence to short says:

      No mistake Jail they deserve Send Sarah back also to spend the time. The little B i t c h who hoped to make millions on books and moviies is crying now

    2. No sympathy, no compassion for colossal stupidity on their part. says:

      Think about it. I could have a little (damn little) compassion for them had their decision been the result of a momentary lapse in judgment or a case of simply making the wrong choice when faced with the need to make an instant decision.

      But their act was not at all like that. They made a calculated and deliberate decision to leave the USA and, among other less than brilliant activities, “go hiking” in a war zone. This was not an instant decision but an elaborate plan which turned out to be a colossal act of stupidity. They deserve whatever happens to them.

    3. Guy says:

      No mistakes are things like types (on this “syte”). PLANNED IDOCY is wondering around in a war zone. I wonder if they had plans to stir up some sort of trouble os to just get some cheap thrills & they backfired on them big time.

      1. No children left behind says:

        Cheap thrill was about it. I heard mom-in-denial on the radio last night. I can see how their guidance suffered during the formative, decision making years. They must have been the age when ‘everyone was a winner’

  26. Nancy Grace says:

    Why don’t they send Al Bore over to get them out? Or might they mistake him for a whale and eat the blubber head? Just sayin?

    1. Geraldo says:

      Al’s modeling for Towncraft and on a shoot in the rockies this summer for the fall boxer line.

  27. Nancy Grace says:

    Let’s be happy it wasn’t briefs.

  28. Amy Klob. says:

    They should have chosen Yosemite like the non-cool hikers. I think their smirks of confidence are fading…

    Yes Geraldo, do you know where Al is shooting? This would be pure heat for me. If I would have only been born earlier, AL could have been my page…

  29. Viper says:

    F’ing idiots and most certainly liberals! Look on the bright side, that’s 2 votes Obummer won’t get in 2012.

    1. Send her back too says:

      LEt’s hopw ‘3’ votes.

  30. scott says:

    Maybe the state department could send former president Jimmy Carter over to help gain their release. He’s always had good success in Iran??????

  31. Pat Kelly says:

    These kids come from wealthy families and galavant around the world while the rest of us actually WORK for a living and we’re supposed to all JUMP when their stupidity gets them 8 years in an Iranian prison. ZWhat they need to do is find a place where they can really help mankind other than in the mountains on the Iranian border. PLEASE!

  32. Richard in Minneapolis says:

    I am amazed at all of the self-righteous vindictiveness on this site. Why are we being so mean?

    I will be the first to admit that hiking in this area was not an intelligent thing to do. Perhaps in happier time the border guards (since the border is not clearly marked) would have just pointed the error out to the hikers and told them to get back on the other side of the line. Unfortunately for them they have become bargaining chips. They will be realeased, as soon as the US is prepared to give up something of equal value. That’s how these things have worked for centuries. But that is not an excuse for adolescent name-calling and reveling in another person’s misfortune.