(Changes dateline, adds analyst, detail)
TEHRAN, Sept 13 - An Iranian court has ordered the release
on bail of two American nationals convicted of espionage, their
lawyer said on Tuesday, adding they would be allowed to leave
the Islamic state right after their release.
Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were arrested in July 2009 near
Iran's border with Iraq, where they say they were hiking in the
A third American, Sarah Shourd, was freed on $500,000 bail
in Sept. 2010 and returned home. Bauer and Fattal were convicted
last month and share a cell in Tehran's notorious Evin prison.
"The appeals court has agreed for the release of Shane Bauer
and Josh Fattal on $500,000 bail for each of them ... They can
leave Iran right after their release," Masoud Shafie told
"I just left the court a few minutes ago and informed the
Swiss embassy about the recent development."
The Swiss embassy in Tehran looks after the interests of the
United States, which broke off diplomatic ties with Iran shortly
after its 1979 Islamic revolution.
The U.S. network NBC, which interviewed Iranian President
Ahmadinejad in Tehran, said in a Twitter message earlier that
Ahmadinejad had told it that Bauer and Fattal would be released
in two days.
The interview was due to air later on Tuesday on NBC's Today
The announcement, ahead of Ahmadinejad's trip to New York to
participate at the U.N. General Assembly meeting on Sept. 22.,
was seen by analysts as a move to ease the mounting diplomatic
pressure on Iran.
"Ahmadinejad secured the release to gain popularity in
America and also to evade political pressure," said analyst Reza
The affair has heightened tensions between Tehran and
Washington, which are also at odds over Iran's disputed nuclear
U.S President Barack Obama has denied that the Americans,
who were working in the Middle East when they decided to hike in
the scenic mountains of Iraq, had any link to U.S. intelligence.
Bauer, Fattal and Shourd say they were hiking in the
mountains of northern Iraq and, if they crossed the unmarked
border into Iran, it was by mistake.
Their supporters say evidence against them has never been
made public, and that the sentence came as a shock after hopes
for their release had been boosted by positive comments from
Iran's foreign minister.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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