BBC: Iran to release one of three US hikers

Sep 9, 20100 comments

9 September 2010 Last updated at 12:32 ET Iran is to free on Saturday one of three detained American hikers accused of espionage, reports say. They say that Iran’s culture ministry informed reporters about the planned release in a text message. Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27 were seized last July after entering Iran from Iraq. Tehran accuses the Americans of entering Iran illegally and having links to US intelligence.

On Thursday, reporters received the text message from the Iranian ministry, which – according to the Associated Press – said: “The release of one of the detained Americans will be on Saturday , 0900am at the Estaghlal hotel.”

This is the same hotel in Tehran where the parents of the Americans were allowed to briefly meet them in May. The ministry did not say which of the three hikers would be released and why. However, there is a suggestion this could be to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, the BBC’s Tehran correspondent Jon Leyne says. Some time ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hinted about a possible deal for Iranians held in the US, but it is not clear that ever developed into firm negotiations, our correspondent says. He adds that while behind the scenes deal is possible, the Iranians may be acting quite independently for their own reasons. The hikers’ mothers insist their children were hiking in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region and unintentionally crossed an unmarked border. The three have been held in Tehran’s Evin prison. They have not been publicly charged. In December, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said they would stand trial, but he did not specify on what charges. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on Tehran to free the hikers, and said that any charges would be unfounded. Source: