US hikers` lawyer prevented from leaving Iran

Bauer, Fattal and Shourd were charged with illegal entry and spying on Iran after they were arrested in July 2009 along the unmarked Iran-Iraq border.

Tehran: Lawyer Masoud Shafii who represented
the now free US hikers held for two years in Iran on espionage
and illegal entry charges was barred from leaving the country
on Sunday, a source said.

"This morning at around six o`clock (0230 GMT), after
getting his passport stamped and as he was boarding the plane,
his passport was confiscated by order of the judiciary," the
source said on condition of anonymity.

The source added that Shafii "could not proceed to his
final destination which was the United States," without
elaborating on why his passport had been seized.

On Tuesday Shafii was arrested at his home and questioned
for several hours by judiciary officials before being
released, the source told a news agency, adding that agents confiscated
documents, his computer and his passport, but returned them
later.

Shafii represented Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah
Shourd in a case which lasted for more than two years.
He always maintained that his clients were innocent, and
was criticised by conservative hardliners in the Islamic
republic.

Shafii also criticised the judiciary for not allowing him
proper access to the three, as required by the law.
He met them briefly only three times in two years, once
before the start of their trial, and once before each of two
hearings in February and August.

Bauer, Fattal and Shourd were charged with illegal entry
and spying on Iran after they were arrested in July 2009 along
the unmarked Iran-Iraq border.

Shourd was released on bail in September 2010 on health
grounds, and her two companions were freed on bail on
September 21 after being sentenced in August to eight years in
prison each by a Tehran revolutionary court.

Four days later Fattal and Bauer accused Iran at a New
York news conference of using them as hostages in its power
struggle with the West, and described hearing the anguished
cries of fellow inmates being beaten in Tehran`s Evin prison.
Iran`s judiciary promptly denied their charges.

The hikers case angered Washington, already mired in deep
differences with Tehran over its controversial nuclear
programme, its refusal to recognise Israel and its support for
militant groups in the Middle East.

PTI

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