Spying trial of 3 Americans in Iran postponed

The trio case has further aggravated tensions between Iran and the US.

Tehran: Iran on Wednesday postponed the trial of three Americans on spying charges without giving a reason, their lawyer said.

The US State Department had on Tuesday urged the Islamic Republic, with which Washington has no relations, to quickly resolve the case of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, who were arrested in July 2009 after they crossed into Iran from Iraq.

Sarah Shourd, a friend who was detained with them but returned to the United States after being freed on bail last year, has said the trio were innocent hikers who traversed an unmarked border into Iran by mistake.

Defense lawyer Masoud Shafie said the trial, which Iranian authorities had announced in March would start on May 11, had been postponed "because of the absence of my clients Shane and Josh." He said he was not told why they had not shown up, and had submitted "a formal protest" over the delay.

A judicial source confirmed that the trial had been put off but gave no reason. Iranian authorities have called on Shourd to return to Tehran to stand trial alongside Fattal and Bauer.

The trial was originally scheduled to start in November 2010, but postponed. Bauer and Fattal pleaded not guilty at a closed-door court hearing on February 6. Under Iran`s Islamic law, espionage can be punished by execution.

"We urge Iran to resolve this case as soon as possible. Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer have been in prison for almost two years, and it`s time to reunite them with their families," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters in Washington.

The case has further aggravated tensions between Iran and the United States strained in particular over Iran`s nuclear program. The United States accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran says it is enriching uranium for electricity only.

Bureau Report

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