Berkeley Alums Detained In Iran to Stand Trial

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday December 17, 2009 - 08:37:00 AM

Three UC Berkeley alums detained in Iran since July 31 will stand trial, according to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, U.S. media reported Monday. 

According to CNN, Mottaki told Iran’s Fars News Agency Dec. 14 that Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal, who are being held on espionage charges after illegally straying into Iran from Kurdish Iraq, will be put on trial under the country’s judiciary. 

The detainees’ families have maintained that the trio crossed to Iran accidentally and have asked Iranian authorities to release them. 

Bauer, 27, and Shourd, 31, are freelance journalists and Fattal, 27, is involved with a sustainable living project at the Aprovecho Research Center in Cottage Grove, Ore., the families have said.  

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also appealed to the Iranian government for a swift release of the hikers, calling the charges unfounded. 

In the absence of U.S. diplomatic relations with Iran since 1979, Swiss diplomats have met with the hikers twice in prison. 

Students at UC Berkeley have been holding vigils for the hikers on campus and more than 4,700 people have signed a petition asking for their release. 

Several prominent dignitaries, including actress Mia Farrow, activist Gloria Steinem, billionaire businessman Richard Branson, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. signed a petition which was sent to Iran’s United Nations mission asking that it be forwarded to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, CNN reported. 

CNN said that Ahmadinejad had said that he had no control over the situation and that it was being handled entirely by the country’s judiciary system. He added that the act of crossing over the border by American citizens was an “illegal entry,” which would be “considered a crime everywhere,” but also stressed that he could ask that the judiciary expedite the process and consider the case with “maximum leniency,” CNN reported.