Aug 05, 2009

Iranian Kurdistan: 3 Americans Arrested for Illegal Entry

Active ImageThree Americans who strayed across the border have from Iraq been arrested. Allegations have been released suspecting the Americans of spying.


Below is a statement issued by The Associated Press:


Iran says 3 Americans arrested for illegal entry

Iran has arrested three Americans who strayed across the border from Iraq on allegations they illegally entered the country, and a lawmaker said Tuesday [4th August 2009] that authorities are deciding whether they will be accused of spying.

Officials in northern Iraq's Kurdish region said Sunday that the three — Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal — were tourists who inadvertently crossed into Iran on July 31 [2009] while hiking in the region. Friends and family say the three were adventurous travelers who accidentally stumbled into the wrong place at the wrong time.

Their arrest and Iran's accusations could spark a new standoff with the United States at a time when Iran is already mired in its worst political crisis in decades over the disputed June 12 [2009] presidential election. Earlier this year, the two countries faced off over American-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi, who was held for more than three months and accused of spying.

Lawmaker Mohammad Karim Abedi, who heads the Iranian parliament's National Security Committee, said on state-run Arabic television Al-Alam that he believed the three came as spies but authorities are still deciding whether there is proof to bring legal action against them.

"Surely we can say that they came as spies," he said. "The concerned authorities will decide whether they were spies or not," he added. "If it is proven that they were spies, the necessary legal procedures will be sought against them."

Earlier in the day, the hard-line Fars news agency, considered close to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard, quoted the deputy governor of Iranian Kurdistan province near the Iraqi border as saying the three illegally entered Iran and were arrested.

"The three, who are not identified yet, were detained at the Malakh-Khor border point near the town of Marivan," about 370 miles (630 kilometers) west of the capital Tehran, Fars quoted Iraj Hassanzadeh as saying. "Two of the three are men. They were not interrogated," he said, adding that anyone who crossed the border illegally would be arrested.

He said the Americans had Iraqi and Syria visas.

In Washington, a National Security Council official said the administration has seen the Iranian media reports and is working through the Swiss government to confirm the information regarding the three missing Americans. Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Iran because the two countries do not have diplomatic relations. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

Saberi's case put new strains on the already rocky U.S.-Iran relationship at a time when President Barack Obama sought to reach out to Tehran for a dialogue over its contentious nuclear program.
Saberi was arrested in January [2009] and accused of spying. The U.S. denied the charges, but she was sentenced to eight years in prison. An appeals court reduced that to a two-year suspended sentence and released her on May 11 [2009].