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Iran prosecutor charges 3 US backpackers with espionage

[JURIST] Iran’s prosecutor general Abbas Jafari Dolat-Abadi said Monday that the three American hikers arrested in July for illegally entering Iran are being charged with espionage [IRNA report]. In statements to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Dolat-Abadi further declared that the investigation of the American citizens' charges has begun and the state of their case will soon be announced. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official website], who met with the families of the hikers last week, responded [transcript] Monday that she believes that there is no evidence to support any of the charges, urging the Iranian government to exercise compassion and release the hikers. The Americans, Shane Bauer, Sara Shourd, and Joshua Fattal, who possessed Iraqi and Syrian visas, were arrested [JURIST report] for illegally entering Iran near the city of Marivan at the Malakh Khor border. Their families maintain that they had accidentally crossed the border while backpacking through northern Iraq, while an Iraqi police officer reported that the three backpackers were linked [PressTV report] to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website]. Dolat-Abadi also said Monday that the Danish journalist arrested last week is still under investigation. Niels Kroghsgaard allegedly introduced [FNS report] himself as a reporter but held no evidence of proof.

In September, media workers and reformists urged [JURIST report] Dolat-Abadi to remove bans placed on newspapers and to free journalists who were imprisoned during the term of his predecessor, Saeed Mortazavi [JURIST news archive]. In May, Iran released [JURIST report] convicted US journalist Roxana Saberi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Saberi, a dual US-Iran citizen, was originally arrested for illegally purchasing alcohol and was later sentenced to eight years in prison [JURIST report] on espionage charges. In 2007, Iran charged Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh and media correspondent Parnaz Azima with allegedly engaging in an espionage conspiracy [JURIST report]. Tajbakhsh and Azima, along with two other Iranian-Americans, were originally accused of being part of a US-organized spy network. The Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy website] reported last year that Iran ranked sixth [report text] in the world for imprisoned journalists.

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