U.S. hikers in Iran sentenced to 8 years in prison

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According to Iranian state TV reports, Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, the U.S. hitchhikers arrested and held prisoner the last two years for accidentally crossing into Iran, have each been sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of espionage and illegal entry. They will have twenty days to appeal the sentence.

Bauer and Fattal, now twenty-eight, along with fellow Berkeley grad Sarah Shourd, were hiking in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan near the Iran-Iraq border in July 2009 when they unknowingly entered Iranian territory and were detained. They wound up in Tehran's Evin prison, where Shourd spent time in solitary confinement, and Bauer allegedly had his head slammed against a wall by a guard, drawing blood. Shourd (who became engaged to Bauer while in prison) was released in September 2010 after buying off her freedom for $500,000 bail. The Iranians have yet to produce any evidence of spying. 

Bauer and Fattal's own lawyer, Masoud Shafice, said he hadn't even been informed of the verdict. He said, "I don't know if this report is true or not, but this is not a light sentence."

No, it's not a light sentence for unwittingly stepping across a border while on a peaceful hike. But then again, Tehran's Revolutionary Court isn't known for its sterling record on defendants' rights. You can't help but think that Iran's Holocaust-denying president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is enjoying this trumped-up poke at President Obama and the U.S. We'll see what kind of reception he gets when he attends the U.N.'s annual general assembly in New York next month.