Two American hikers arrested in Iran two years ago were sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage and illegal entry despite pleas from U.S. authorities, Iranian state TV reported.
The U.S. is still waiting for word from officials in Iran regarding Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, The Associated Press reported.
The two have spent more than two years in jail and Josh's mother, Laura Fattal, have told the AP that in that time she has written more than 700 letters to her son.
It is their only lifeline to the outside world, and so that's why I write every day, she said. I always tell him how proud I am that he is doing well in prison, I hope. And that he should not worry. That he is going to see and smell and feel freedom very soon.
The State Department has said that the two men have been imprisoned too long, and it is time to reunite them with their families.
On Saturday, Iranian TV reported that judicial sources have said Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were each given five-year prison sentences for spying and an additional three years for entering the country illegally. It is unknown if the two will get any credit for time served. They were arrested in July 2009.
Voice of America reported that a third American, Sarah Shroud, was also arrested with the men, but was freed on $500,000 bail last year and returned to the United States. The three have always maintained they were innocent and that they were hiking in the mountains of northern Iraq while on vacation. They said that if they crossed the unmarked border into Iran, it was by mistake, according to Voice of America reports.
Iran expert Patrick Clawson, who is with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the AP that American efforts to have the two men released have been repeatedly frustrated.
(They've been frustrated) in part because the more effort that we devote, the more the Iranians say, 'Oooh, goodie. We have ourselves a wonderful bargaining chip here. Let's see what more we can get for this,' Clawson said.
If confirmed, the eight-year sentence would set back hopes raised recently by Iran's foreign minister, who hinted that the hiker's trial, which ended three weeks ago, could lead to their release, according to the AP.
The most difficult thing I've ever had to do is leave prison without Shane and Josh, Sarah said to the AP. That day there they were smiling, they were beaming. They were so happy for me and they were so hopeful that they would soon follow me.