Massoud Shafiee, lawyer for the American hikers imprisoned in Iran, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that following the absence of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal at their court trial on 11 May, rumors about his clients’ hunger strike are serious. “I can only believe these words as rumors, as I don’t have any information about them. But it was inappropriate not to bring them to their trial session. There was no convincing legal reason for not bringing them to court. Worse yet, no one provided a convincing reason for not bringing them,” Shafiee told the Campaign.
“One of the reasons that intensifies the rumors of their hunger strike is that they did not come to their court session. The Swiss Consulate, the families, and myself as their lawyer, have not had any news about them since their last trial session which was a few months ago. In order to clarify such ambiguities, in a bill I wrote to the Judge and the Head of the Judiciary, I submitted an urgent request for myself or Mrs. [Swiss] Ambassador or both to be able to visit with Shane and Josh to ensure their health. I have also asked that convincing answers about the reasons they were not brought to court on their court date be announced,” said Shafiee.
Three American tourists, Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Josh Fattal were arrested on the Iran-Iraq border in the Kurdistan region on 30 July 2009, and were accused of illegal entry. On 14 September 2010, Sarah Shourd was released on $500,000 bail after spending months in solitary confinement, but the other two remain inside Evin Prison. Rumors about their hunger strike and torture are strengthening in view of the fact that the two were not transferred from prison to attend their 11 May trial session.
Shafiee, who believes his clients are innocent, told the Campaign: “I objected in court that of the three trial sessions for the suspects, this is the second time they have not been transferred from prison to court, and the trial has been postponed for this reason only. This is very damaging to the suspects, God will not approve of this. They were waiting for their court date and they want their situation clarified as soon as possible. The prison is under the oversight of the Judiciary, and it was expected of the court that had scheduled this date a long time ago to [ensure] dispatching them to court.”
Shafiee considers the prolonged “temporary detention” of the two men to be illegal. “As a lawyer, I strongly believe that they are innocent, and I don’t know why the situation of these poor souls is not clarified. Under no circumstances can they remain in prison for more than one year. The minimum punishment for espionage is one year in prison. Assuming that they are spies, they cannot be kept in [temporary] detention for more than one year…. They have been in prison for 22 months. I don’t care about their being American. Our anti-American stances should not be blamed for this process. God will not approve of this. They were waiting for their court date.”
“Their families have really been seriously hurt [by this]. When they contact me, they are so agitated, they are going crazy. I don’t really know what to do, either. Sometimes my conscience suffers because I cannot do anything. I mean I do what I should do, but I do not receive proper responses. The Judge doesn’t respond properly, nobody is accountable. I always enter the court with hardship and difficulty. Even with all this hardship, when I enter the court and put all these hurdles behind, these types of things happen finally, where the suspects are not even brought to court,” he continued.
“I went to court an hour earlier, because I had requested at the last session to be able to visit with Josh and Shane in court for a few minutes before the session started, and they had also requested the same thing the last time in court and the Judge had agreed, too. Seeing one’s lawyer is one of the most basic rights of a suspect. If Sarah Shourd was not allowed to talk to me, how could I have prepared her defense? If it weren’t for Sarah and the case file, I would be completely unable to defend them,” added Shafiee.