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Clinton urges Iran to free US hikers, calls charges unfounded

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-12-15

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Iran to free three American hikers charged with spying, whom Tehran says will stand trial. The case comes at a time of high tension between Iran and the West over Iran's nuclear programme.

AFP - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday urged Iran to free three American hikers as soon as possible after Tehran announced they would go on trial for "illegally" entering the country.

"The three young people who were detained by the Iranians have absolutely no connection with any kind of action against the Iranian state or government," Clinton told reporters.

"In fact, they were out hiking and unfortunately, apparently, allegedly, walked across an unmarked boundary," said Clinton, who was flanked by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

"We appeal to the Iranian leadership to release these three young people and free them as soon as possible," Clinton said.

Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, were arrested July 31 after apparently straying into Iranian territory during a hiking trip in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region.

Iran's public prosecutor said last month that the trio faced espionage charges but Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki later said they were charged with illegal entry, suggesting that espionage might only be an accusation.

Mottaki said on Monday: "Interrogation of the three Americans who have illegally entered Iran with suspicious aims is ongoing. They will be put on trial by the judiciary and rulings will be made."

 

Date created : 2009-12-14

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