Western news agencies say Iran has opened a trial of three American hikers accused of spying and illegally entering the country in 2009.
The news agencies quote sources in Iran as saying the trial began Sunday in a closed session with a ban on observers, including Swiss Ambassador Livia Leu Agosti, who represents U.S. interests in the country.
Iranian authorities detained U.S. citizens Sarah Shourd, her fiance Shane Bauer, and their friend Josh Fattal in July 2009 along the border of Iran and northern Iraq’s Kurdish region where they were hiking. The three said they were not aware they were crossing the border in the remote, mountainous region.
Iran released Shourd on a $500,000 bail last September and allowed her to return to the United States. Iran’s government demanded her presence at the trial, but she was expected to be tried in absentia.
An Iranian lawyer for the hikers said Saturday that he has not been given access to Fattal and Bauer to prepare for the trial. He said his clients are not at fault because the border was not marked in the region in which they were detained.
The United States has called repeatedly for the release of the two remaining detainees. The defendants face up to three years in prison on the charge of illegal entry.