Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:11 am (KSA) 21:11 pm (GMT)

Tehran probes US hikers for anti-Iran activity

Tehran says Shane Bauer (L)  Sarah Shourd (C) and Josh Fattal (R) entered the country illegally
Tehran says Shane Bauer (L) Sarah Shourd (C) and Josh Fattal (R) entered the country illegally

Iran said on Sunday that three American hikers detained in Tehran for a year are being investigated by the authorities for possible actions aimed at harming the security of the Islamic republic.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said it was "evident" that the three -- Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27 -- had entered the country illegally.

"The above matter is a purely judicial issue and will be thus pursued within this framework," foreign ministry spokesman Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency Fars on Sunday.

 The above matter is a purely judicial issue and will be thus pursued within this framework 
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast

"Any effort to impact the above individuals' legal proceedings through political pressure or media scenarios ... will have no bearing on the Iranian judiciary's independent approach," he said.

That was an apparent reference to a statement Obama made on Friday marking the Americans' 12 months in captivity. He said the three had committed no crimes and that their continued imprisonment violated human rights conventions.

"I want to be perfectly clear: Sarah, Shane and Josh have never worked for the United States government. They are simply open-minded and adventurous young people who represent the best of America, and of the human spirit," Obama said.

"Their unjust detention has nothing to do with the issues that continue to divide the United States and the international community from the Iranian government."

Iran is still investigating spying allegations, Mehmanparast said.

"The three American nationals were detained ... due to illegal entry into Iranian territory. Consequently their violation is obvious and they will have to go before the law like any other individual.

"Meanwhile, other probable charges against them, such as counter-security measures or intentions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, are being investigated by the relevant authorities."

The three were arrested on July 31 last year after they reportedly strayed into Iran from across the border with Iraq.

Iran says numerous Iranian citizens are in secret detention in the United States including a former deputy defense minister who vanished in 2007. Iranian media have often linked the case of the Americans to the fate of these alleged Iranian detainees.

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