US hikers held in Iran are spies: Intelligence Minister

Iran`s intelligence minister on Wednesday accused three US hikers in custody for the past 10 months of being spies, just hours before their mothers were expected in Tehran, ISNA news agency reported.

Updated: May 19, 2010, 22:13 PM IST

Tehran: Iran`s intelligence minister on Wednesday
accused three US hikers in custody for the past 10 months of
being spies, just hours before their mothers were expected in
Tehran, ISNA news agency reported.

"Iran acted in accordance with Islamic teachings and in a
humanitarian way," the news agency quoted Heydar Moslehi as
saying, referring to a decision by Iran to grant visas for the
mothers to travel to Tehran to see their children.
Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27,
were detained on July 31 after straying across Iran`s border
in what they described as a mistake while on a hiking trip in
northern Iraq`s Kurdistan region.

The trio are being held in Tehran`s notorious Evin
prison. Washington insists they are innocent and should be
released.

"Despite their being spies and entering Iran illegally,
they were dealt with according to religious teachings and in a
humanitarian way," Moslehi said.

"We have to see how the Americans will react towards the
innocent Iranians kidnapped and transferred there," he added.

In December, Iranian media published a list of 11
Iranians they said were being held by the United States or
other countries.

They added that Iran`s foreign ministry was pressing
"vigorously" for the release of the 11, three of whom have
allegedly been detained in countries outside the United States
at Washington`s request.
The hikers` lawyer, Masoud Shafii, told AFP the mothers
were due in Tehran later today and would meet up with their
children the next day.

They were due in at Tehran airport at around 9:30 pm
(2230 IST), he said on the telephone, adding that the women
would be welcomed by the Swiss ambassador, whose country
represents US interests in Iran.

PTI