This development drags out the current situation until at least Tuesday. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. An update on this story. “Deal to free 2 Americans jailed in Iran hits snag,” by Barbara Surk and Nasser Karimi for the Associated Press, September 18:
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) “” A bail-for-freedom deal for two Americans jailed as spies in Iran hit a snag Sunday because a judge whose signature is needed on the bail papers was on vacation, the prisoners’ lawyer said, dashing hopes for their immediate release.
The attorney, Masoud Shafiei, said he could not complete the paperwork on the $1 million bail deal because a second judge who must sign the documents is on vacation until Tuesday. One judge already signed the papers Saturday.
“I have no choice but to wait until Tuesday,” Shafiei told The Associated Press.
Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 29 years old, have been jailed for more than two years in a case that has deepened the mistrust between Iran and the United States.
They were detained along the Iran-Iraq border in July 2009 with their friend Sarah Shourd. She was released last September with mediation by the Gulf nation of Oman after $500,000 was paid.
Iran still officially maintains they were spies. Only the Iranian officials know if they are actually that paranoid, or just brutal opportunists.
The men were convicted of spying for the United States and illegally entering Iran and were each sentenced last month to eight years in prison. They denied the charges and appealed the verdicts, opening the way for the possible deal to free them in exchange for $500,000 bail each.
They say they were just hiking in Iraq’s scenic north and may have mistakenly crossed an unmarked border with Iran.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Saturday the courts are willing to commute the Americans’ sentences in the “near future” as a gesture of Islamic mercy, but did not say when the pair could be released.
However, Mohammed Javad Larijani, the head of Iran’s Human Rights Council and a brother of the country’s head of the powerful judiciary, said the men’s “crime was not limited to illegal trespassing.” Bauer and Fattal were spying for the U.S. and “we do not award the spies,” Larijani told the semiofficial Fars news agency Sunday.
The mixed signals could reflect the bitter internal political feuds inside Iran between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country’s ruling clerics, who control the courts. Ahmadinejad and his allies are accused of trying to challenge the power of Iran’s Islamic establishment.
The first word of the bail plan for Bauer and Fattal came earlier this week from Ahmadinejad, who said the Americans could be freed in a matter of days. But Iran’s hardline judiciary then responded that the bail provisions were still under review….