American Hiker Sarah Shourd’s Summons May Be Excuse to Prolong Trial
In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Massoud Shafiee, lawyer for the three American hikers detained in Iran in 2009, said that he has received a court summons on behalf of Sarah Shourd to attend the 11 May trial session at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court. Shafiee told the Campaign that the summons may be a new excuse for yet another re-scheduling of court proceedings in order to further prolong the process. He emphasized that the court determined that Sarah Shourd’s presence is mandatory and that if she does not appear, the court session will be postponed.
A source close to the families of the three Americans told the Campaign that Shourd will not be attending the court session in Tehran.
“Considering Ms. Shourd’s illness, I doubt she will return from the US. At any rate, she is out on bail and if she does not return, the court could confiscate her bail amount. I cannot make her appear and neither can the court. In the summons I received, it stated that the court session for the other two American suspects who are still in prison will be held on 11 May. They revised it to state that Sarah Shourd’s presence is also mandatory. The court has sent the summons to Ms. Shourd through the Foreign Ministry,” Shafiee told the Campaign.
Shafiee is concerned about further prolonging the cases of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal. “The court could have separated the cases of the two suspects currently in prison from Sarah Shourd’s during the last court session, either issuing a separate ruling for her, or, if necessary, extend the time for Shourd’s court session. According to Article 209 of the Criminal Penal Code, where there are multiple suspects in a case, the case judge is required to review each case separately, as, for example, one of the suspects may have fled. The judge cannot leave the case open for others with the excuse of the [absent] suspect. I brought this up during the last court session, but they did not pay any attention to it,” added Shafiee.
“I insist to bring up the necessity of implementing Article 209 of the Criminal Penal Code, so that in the event of Shourd’s absence, her case is separated from the cases of Shane [Bauer] and Josh [Fattal], who have been in prison in Iran for well over a year. It appears from the summons I have received that Shourd’s absence at the 11 May session could be used as an excuse for rescheduling the session to another time, and this action is not supported by the law, because first, Ms. Sarah [Shourd] has bail funds which can be used, and second, according to Article 209, the judge is obligated to separate Sarah’s case from the cases of the other two suspects. If anything other than this is decided, unfortunately, the legal course has not been taken,” said Shafiee.
When asked why the three cases have not been separated so far, Shafiee said, “I don’t wish to express political opinions. But anyone who knows basic things about politics would know that if these individuals were spies, the US government would have made a more serious effort for them. The international protocol regarding spies is either to exchange them or to take other actions which would be very different from the current circumstances. Additionally, there is no evidence that would support their being spies. So, in such a case, normal legal routes must be taken.”
“They can’t even be accused of illegal entry. Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs was questioned [in the Parliament] about the lack of [sufficient] markings on the Iranian borders. Now the question is, how could three young foreigners easily determine whether this spot is a continuation of Iraqi soil or [the beginning of] Iranian soil. If you and I were there, too, we couldn’t naturally distinguish it. From a legal point of view, there is no justification for continuing this case,” said Shafiee.
“I hope that the court will, God willing, approach this legally and that the case is adjourned on 11 May. Even if the court rules that my clients, Josh and Shane, are guilty, they cannot be detained for longer than the time they have already spent in prison. The law expresses that individuals cannot be imprisoned for longer than the minimum punishment [without a conviction]. They can’t keep them [in prison] like this. Perhaps the Judge will sentence them to less than one year in prison; then, who would be accountable for the prison time they have already endured? I have been saying these things for the past year, but, unfortunately, nobody cares,” he concluded.
The three Americans, Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Joshua Fattal, were arrested on 31 July 2009 on charges of illegal entry into Iran and espionage. Sarah Shourd was released on 14 September 2010 on bail of $500,000 due to an illness. The other two suspects remain in prison and their lawyer’s efforts to change their detention location from Evin Prison to the Swiss Embassy, or the Swiss Ambassador’s home, have been futile.