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IRAN: Detained American hikers' lawyer says he might resign

0206_IranTrial_full_380 Masoud Shafii, the Iranian lawyer representing the two Americans -- Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer -- held in the Islamic Republic on espionage charges, told Babylon & Beyond in an interview Sunday that he might resign as defense counsel for the two men if he is not granted access to his clients in jail.

"I am really unhappy for my clients, and I will submit another request for meeting my clients in jail," he said during the interview at his office in Tehran. "If my request is not heeded as before, then I might think of withdrawing from defending and resign as their defense lawyer. I might express openly and officially all my reasons for resigning at a press conference or through other methods. Because I have been waiting for 21 days now to receive the official notification to be told when I can meet my clients."

Below is the full interview with Shafii.

On the day of the trial on Feb 6, journalists were waiting for you to hold a press conference outside the revolutionary court. What happened? Was any evidence brought up in court that would prove the hikers are spies?

First, I answer the second part of your question. No, not at all. There was no evidence. I was waiting to see evidence or documents. There were two charges: espionage and illegal entry (trespassing). My clients were given enough time to defend themselves. I think it took three hours to defend through the court-approved translator, and I am happy for my clients as they were given plenty of time to argue for their innocence. But when it was my turn to defend, Judge Abulfazal Salavati did not give me time.

Were you barred from speaking to us outside the court? 

Legally speaking, no one can bar a defense lawyer to interview with the media. But as the judge announced that the trial would be held behind closed doors, I had to abide by Act 188 of the penal code and not reveal the details of the trial. However, Press TV (a state-run Iranian English-language news network) was inside the court and carried the news.

If the trial was held behind closed doors and you and Swiss diplomats were barred from being in attendance, then why was Press TV inside?

You should ask Press TV and not me, and ask why all local and international media were barred except for Press TV, which was allowed inside a court that is not open.

Could the judge handle the case better legally?

According to Act 209 of the penal code, the judge could separate the cases of Bauer and Fattal from Sarah's [Sarah Shourd, a third hiker detained along with the two men, who was released last year] case as absentee and accomplice and issue the verdict for Bauer and Fattal.

You told The Times previously that the judge promised that you would have access to your clients in jail. Have you met them since Feb. 6?

No, it pricks my conscience as I cannot fulfill my legal responsibility. The judge told me on Feb. 6 at the end of the trial that I would be able to "meet the clients with enough time to converse with them very soon."  But since then, more than 20 days have passed and I have not been able to meet them in jail as I was promised. Once, I went back to court and the judge told me that an official notification had been delivered to me. If the courier was supposed to deliver on foot as the couriers or mailmen used to do 2,000 years ago, I would have received the official notification a long time ago.

Why was Mr. Salavati appointed judge of the trial?

I don't know. You should ask him. I know there are plenty of well-experienced judges in the Iranian judiciary, including him. But I think they are making a simple case complicated and that they have wasted 19 months of my clients'  time in jail. Even if they were found guilty for trespassing, they have already completed their sentence.

-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Photo: Masoud Shafii. Credit: Morteza Nikoubazl / Reuters

Comments () | Archives (12)

Mr. Shafii is a courageous Attorney with very special convictions. He has ventured with extra courage to challenge the incorrectitudes "heaped' on his clients, whether Iranian or foreign. Mr. Shafii's dedication to mankind's rights and their right to have a hearing in the courts of laws need special attention and is worthy of respect.
A fiercely incorruptible person with no political leanings and the inner urge to serve those in distress, Mr. Shafii definitely deserves respect from the global community.
Mehr A. Kalami........USA

Chris said 'Dubyah' was president when this first happened. That is incorrect. Barack Obama was sworn in as President in January 2009.

If anyone calls themselves "white american" then they're not. At least it's transparent.

Anyhow - I know Shane. He is not a spy. But regardless of my personal knowledge, the Iranian courts have given no proof of espionage. His lawyer hasn't even seen any proof of espionage. Moreover, as their lawyer states, even if they were to be convicted of trespassing, they have already served their time. After 19 months, they haven't been convicted of anything!

Additionally, I want to point out that Iraqi Kurdistan is not a war zone and is autonamous to Iraq (meaning it's treated as a separate/independent entity within), and that many people travel there each year on vacation and to hike in the hills - it's an area known for beauty. They weren't being irresponsible - they just ended up in a crap situation, being motioned across an unmarked border by an Iranian guard, only to end up being arrested. (Once again, for anyone who missed it - it was an unmarked border - there was no line in the dirt, or sign posted - and Shane is fluent in Arabic.)

The Iranian government are using Shane and Josh as political pawns - in other words, they're hoping they can trade Shane and Josh. It's why they've held out so long on actually holding a trial for them (that started Feb. 6 and has yet to end - even though they haven't been back in court since then).

White American

They should go down for espionage and prostituted to the fullest degree.

Says it all really. Maybe they'll be prostituted once they're locked up?

Chris, do you think it is really political? What gave you that idea?

The quality of commentary here is very low. From offensive insults of Islam to an Iranian sympathiser posing as what they think is an American to someone Advocating rape, seriously?

The men as their lawyer said have already served their time for tresspass if they had been found guilty of that offense, and there was no evidence of espionage presented. This is a political game being played by small minded folk.

The kids, and that is what there are even though in their 20's, were being adventurous as they should be at that age, in a place that was not a war zone and never once crossed into Iran. The war never even reached that part of Iraq. The Iranians crossed the border to kidnap them hoping to get some kind of leverage with our government. This failed and now they look like the chumps they are. They let the girl go because of illness.
They are hoping to find some way to let the boys go that they can hide behind and claim some sort of moral superiority to hide their mistake.
There is also the stupid factor, they have been killing birds as spies of Israel. Apparently an ornitholgist ring on the birds leg is evidence of the bird being a trained spy. It would be comical if this kind of mentality weren't so dam dangerous.
As in all insecure people they (they=the current Iranian government) have a need to demonstrate control of or possession of power. Dubyah's a good example of this at home as well as a refutation of the backbone theory posted here. Since he was pres when (July 2009) this first happened. The truly powerful never let you know they have it.
I hope this lawyer succeeds in exposing his governments misuse of the system and that he stays free of trouble for it.

President Obama is smart. If he did what everyone was saying he should do and make aggressive statements while Americans were in Libya, those Americans would have been interned by Col. Gaddafi.
Pres. Obama thinks before he speaks, unlike, Bomb, Bomb Iran, John McCain.
More Americans should follow his example, not everything can be done yesterday, and your actions do have consequences. For example, military action in Libya, when you are already fighting on 2 fronts in the Middle East. Do Americans want a third war zone? Al Queada is currently not involved in Libya, Libyans are not currently interested in Al Quaeda. I wonder what an American invasion will do?
Perhaps the US military will be greeted as liberators.. or not!

Oh yeah Ed Brazas , another Obama know it all hater. As if you have access to the State Department, and just know what should be done. But of course you are to busy stocking the shelves at Safeway to go and show them how.

All of you seem to forget that Russia and China oppose any restrictions on Iraq. The Us has its own restrictions on doing business, banking, and other sanctions.
France's Total is the biggest purchaser of Iranian oil. So I suppose you would also want to invade France.

There is an old saying, opinions are like anuses, everyone has one. That is the state of your opinions.

I thin IRAN should become a glass desert if you know what I mean. The place should be NUKED.

I am a white american, and sorry too say, that the hikers were in a place they should not have been, iran, or irag. How stupid can you be too hike in a battle zone. They should go down for espionage and prostituted to the fullest degree.

And Obama just sits on his hands-what he does best.A president with some backbone would have solved this by now.He is the great appeaser of our times.

Did anyone understand this???? I'm afraid this is only the beginning of what to expect from these Islamic countries. Democracy now followed by a religious oligarchy.

Islam, the most dangerous thing on earth.


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