Still Not Free

New York Times
November 25, 2010

In September, Sarah Shourd was freed from Iran’s infamous Evin prison, but she’s not really free. Her fiancé, Shane Bauer, and their friend, Josh Fattal, are still languishing in a tiny cell in Tehran.

Ms. Shourd, Mr. Bauer and Mr. Fattal were arrested in July 2009 while they hiked along Iran’s border with Iraq. Iranian officials claimed that the three crossed into Iran to spy but have never offered any proof. In New York City this week, Ms. Shourd said “there was no indication” of a border where they ran into trouble. She earlier told The Times that they had crossed into Iran inadvertently — and only because a border guard of unknown nationality gestured for them to approach.

Iran’s leaders claim that the case is in the hands of the judiciary, but there is no doubt that it is being manipulated for political ends. Mr. Bauer and Mr. Fattal were to finally go on trial this month, but the proceedings have now been postponed until February. They have never been allowed to meet privately with their Iranian lawyer, making it hard to plan a defense.

This game has gone on long enough. Whatever dispute Tehran has with Washington, ordinary citizens should not be used as political pawns. The conditions under which they are being held are abusive and arbitrary. Prisoners are supposed to be permitted visits and phone calls with family. The Americans have been allowed one call and one visit from their mothers.

Last week, there was a hopeful sign: Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary general of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights and a member of a politically influential family, told NBC News that the hikers might not be spies after all. He said that he hoped the case could be resolved before trial.

Finally, even Iranian officials are acknowledging that the case is baseless. They should send Mr. Bauer and Mr. Fattal home.

~ by fredfelleman on November 26, 2010.

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