The three Americans who were arrested near the Iran-Iraq border about 11 months ago—Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd—are still being detained in Iran despite witness reports that Iranian guards crossed the border into Iraq to detain them, according to a new report from The Investigative Fund and The Nation Institute.
Accusations that the Americans crossed into Iran to spy were denied by those close to the them, the State Department, and others, who say that they were hiking in the mountains there, The Nation reported.
Until recently it was believed that the hikers accidentally crossed the border into Iran, but The Nation’s five-month long investigation has revealed witnesses with a different story.
Two witnesses say that the Americans were taken into custody on Iraqi soil, and another two say that the guard “who likely ordered their detention has since been arrested on charges of smuggling, kidnapping and murder.”
The Nation reported that witnesses saw guards from Iran’s national police force use “‘threatening’ and ‘menacing’ gestures” in an attempt to get the three Americans over the border before guards crossed the border to apprehend them last July.
The Iranian lieutenant colonel who witnesses say was the only one who could order the Americans be detained and transferred to Tehran, was arrested last August in connection with the murder of an influential cleric and has since been sentenced to death. Other lawsuits have been filed against Lt. Col. Heyva Taab “alleging libel, theft, rape, kidnapping and murder,” according to The Nation.
An Iranian official issued a statement earlier this month about the state of the Americans’ case:
On June 11 Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary general of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, said that the government’s investigation was nearly complete and a trial for Bauer, Fattal and Shourd “should not be very far from now.” In a statement issued on June 17, the mothers of the hikers called on Iran either to prosecute or release their children. “Iran has no legitimate reason at this stage not to release them or move forward with a fair trial in which our children can openly answer any allegations against them.”