The news is not good for the families of the two American hikers arrested in Iran two years ago. Despite appeals from the U.S. government, Iranian state TV reported that the two hikers have been sentenced to 8 years in prison on charges that include espionage and illegal entry.
The families of the detained hikers issued the following statement this morning: "Of the 751 days of Shane and Josh's imprisonment, yesterday and today have been the most difficult for our families. Shane and Josh are innocent and have never posed any threat to the Islamic Republic of Iran, its government or its people."
Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have already spent more than two years in prison in Iran. In an interview on July 30th, Josh's mother, Laura Fattal (pictured at left) says in that time she has written more than 700 letters to her son.
"It is their only lifeline to the outside world, and so that's why I write every day. I always tell him how proud I am that he is doing well in prison, I hope. And that he should not worry. That he is going to see and smell and feel freedom very soon," Laura says.
In Washington, the State Department said: "Shane and Josh have been imprisoned too long, and it is time to reunite them with their families."
American efforts to have the two men released have been repeatedly frustrated, says Iran expert Patrick Clawson with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
"(They've been frustrated) in part because the more effort that we devote, the more the Iranians say, 'Oooh, goodie. We have ourselves a wonderful bargaining chip here. Let's see what more we can get for this,'" says Clawson.Iran sentences U.S. hikers to 8 years in jail
The eight-year sentence, if confirmed, would set back hopes raised recently by Iran's foreign minister, who hinted that the hiker's trial, which ended three weeks ago, could lead to their release.
"You build up patience, you build up resolve and you build up hope. And it's been a rollercoaster ride," Laura Fattal says.
Bauer, Fattal and a third American, Sarah Shroud, were hiking in the mostly peaceful Kurdish region of Iraq when they apparently strayed across the unmarked border into Iran and were arrested. Shroud was released last September for medical reasons, with the payment of $500,000 bail.
"The most difficult thing I've ever had to do is leave prison without Shane and Josh. That day there they were smiling, they were beaming. They were so happy for me and they were so hopeful that they would soon follow me," Sarah said on July 30th.
For the two hikers still jailed in Iran, that hope has been set back once again.