TEHRAN, Iran – TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran reiterated on Sunday that three Americans jailed a year ago should stand trial on charges of illegally crossing the country's borders.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran is also considering other possible charges against Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal including intentionally acting against Iranian security, according to a state media report. There has been no indication from Iran so far that formal charges against the three have been filed.
The Americans' families and the U.S. government say the three are innocent and accidentally crossed Iran's border while hiking in northern Iraq.
"The three American citizens have been detained for illegal entry to Iranian territory," Mehmanparast said, according to the website of the state broadcasting company. "So the violation of law is obvious and they should be answerable before the law like any other individual."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has in the past proposed swapping the three for Iranians he says are jailed in the U.S., raising fears that the Americans are being held as bargaining chips.
But in his latest remarks, Mehmanparast denied their case was related to Iranians allegedly held in the U.S. Iran claims 11 of its citizens are held in U.S. jails.
"Their case is merely a judicial issue," said Mehmanparast in response to protests in several cities around the world over the weekend to demand the release of the three.
Mehmanparast said the three American prisoners, whom Iran has alleged in the past were spies for the United States, have been offered support from the Swiss embassy. The U.S. broke off ties with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and Switzerland handles U.S. interests in Iran.
Shourd, Bauer and Fattal met as students at the University of California at Berkeley. Last summer, Bauer, 28, a freelance journalist, and Shourd, 31, an English teacher, were living in Damascus, Syria. Bauer had just finished a magazine assignment, and Shourd was planning to learn Arabic.
Fattal, 28, had been overseas as a teaching assistant with the International Honors Program since January 2009. During his visit to Damascus, the three decided to take a hiking trip in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, according to their families. That is where they were seized by Iranian authorities, who accuse them of illegally crossing their border.
President Barack Obama marked the first anniversary of the jailing of three Americans over the weekend by reiterating that they are guilty of nothing, have never worked for the U.S. government and never had any quarrel with the Iranian government.
Family members on Friday were joined by about 75 supporters outside the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York. They held mock prison bars and pitched a tent with a sign that read: "Free the hikers. 365 days."
The mothers of the three were allowed a brief visit with their children in Tehran in May and they said they have not received any word since about their children. Iranian officials have not let the families' lawyer see their children since then, and Swiss diplomats who were allowed to visit them several times before the mothers came have not been let back in.
Shourd's mother has said she is concerned for her daughter's health and worried she is not getting proper treatment for a serious gynecological condition. During their visit, she said, her daughter showed her a lump that had recently developed in her breast. She had a mammogram, but had not seen the results, the mother said.
Swiss diplomats have said in the past that Bauer suffered from a stomach ailment but it is not clear whether the condition is persistent.