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Ahmadinejad says a 'chance' two other US hikers may be released

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-09-22

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said there is a "chance" that two American hikers still held in Iran could be freed after a third, a woman, was released last week "because of mercy, compassion, and as a humanitarian gesture."

AFP - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday there was a chance that two American hikers still held in Iran could be freed, but cautioned it was in the hands of the judge.

The Iranian leader told CNN television that Sarah Shourd had been released last week "because of mercy, compassion, and as a humanitarian gesture."

"As for the others, yes there is a chance. But the judge has to take care of the case," Ahmadinejad told CNN.

Shourd, 32, was released on Tuesday but her fiance Shane Bauer and friend Josh Fattal remain jailed in Tehran after they were detained on July 31, 2009.

Shourd told a press conference on arriving back in the United States at the weekend that she felt "one-third free" after having to leave her two companions behind in Iran.

The hikers say they strayed by accident into Iran in July 2009 while hiking in the mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan. But Iranian authorities have alleged that they were spying.

But Ahmadinejad said he had no sway over the legal process. "I have no influence over it," he added in the interview.

The Iranian leader is in New York for the annual UN General Assembly, and on Sunday he called on the United States to release eight Iranians as a "humanitarian gesture."

"It would not be misplaced to ask that the US government should take a humanitarian gesture to release the Iranians who were illegally arrested and detained here in the United States," he told ABC.

But State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Monday rejected any link.

"We would just say that there is no equivalent between these individuals who have been either charged or tried and afforded due process in a court and these hikers who crossed an unmarked border and have yet to be charged," Toner told reporters on Monday.
 

Date created : 2010-09-22

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