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Hikers' release from Iran prison delayed again, lawyer says

By the CNN Wire Staff
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The story of 3 Americans detained in Iran
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: An Iranian official links the hikers' case to U.S. treatment of others
  • U.S. Muslim, Christian leaders ask President Ahmadinejad for their release
  • A judge who needs to sign bail paperwork is on vacation, their lawyer says
  • Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer have been held as spies for more than two years

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- The lawyer trying to get two American hikers freed from prison in Iran was not able to get a signature on bail paperwork because a judge is on vacation until Tuesday, he told CNN Sunday.

Bail has been paid for Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, lawyer Masoud Shafiee said, but he needs the signatures of two judges to prove it.

He went to a judge's office Sunday, when he was in court on a separate case, to see if he could get the second signature, but was told that the judge is on vacation until Tuesday and that Shafiee will have to return then, the lawyer said.

Separately, a delegation of American Muslim and Christian leaders asked Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to release the hikers, his office said Sunday.

Oman involved in U.S. hikers' release
RELATED TOPICS
  • Iran
  • Tehran
  • Joshua Fattal
  • Shane Bauer

The four leaders who met with him in Tehran included Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a photo of the meeting showed.

The head of the human rights department of the Iranian judiciary, Mohammad Javad Larijani, linked the case of Fattal and Bauer to America's treatment of detainees.

"If the U.S. is so sensitive about two of its spies and tries to free them, it should look at the way it treats other nationalities," he said in an interview Sunday with the semi-official Fars news agency.

Fattal and Bauer have been held as spies for more than two years, after they apparently crossed an unmarked border between Iran and Iraq in July 2009.

The two men and a third hiker, Sarah Shourd, were seized while hiking in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Iranian authorities arrested them, claiming they were spies and had entered the country illegally. Shourd, who is Bauer's fiancee, was released last year for medical reasons, although authorities said her case remains open.

Fattal and Bauer were convicted last month of spying and entering Iran illegally, and each was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Ahmadinejad recently said they could be freed, raising hopes that have been dashed and raised again several times since then.

He said in an interview with NBC's "Today" show that they will be released on humanitarian grounds "in a couple of days."

But the judiciary shot back that only it could make decisions about their release.

Shafiee then announced that all the paperwork had been filed for them to be freed on bail, but their release was delayed.

He said he was "very hopeful" they would be released on Saturday, but the process is being held up by the lack of a judge's signature.

Shafiee said he would not know for sure the amount of the bail or who paid it until he sees the signed document. Earlier reports put it at $500,000 for each American.

An Omani official flew to Iran on Wednesday to help work on any negotiation, a Western diplomat told CNN at the time.

Oman helped secure the release of Shourd, posting her bail last September, a senior Obama administration official said at the time.

Ahmadinejad is slated to travel to New York for the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, the semi-official Mehr News Agency reported. He is expected to give a speech and meet with several other presidents and Iranians living in the United States.

But his visit is not linked to moves to release the Americans, said Larijani of the Iranian judiciary.

CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr contributed to this report.

 
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