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Lawyer for 2 American Hikers Jailed in Iran Submits Appeal

July 30: Masoud Shafiei, the Iranian lawyer for two Americans who have been jailed in Iran on charges of espionage, speaks at his office in Tehran, Iran.AP

The lawyer for two American men sentenced to 8-year prison sentences on charges of espionage and illegal entry says he has filed an appeal.

Masoud Shafiei told The Associated Press that the appeals court could decide immediately about his clients, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, or take up to two months to decide.

Bauer and Fattal have been held since July 2009 after being taken into custody on the Iran-Iraq border. A third American who was taken with them, Sarah Shourd, was released in September 2010 on $500,000 bail and returned to the United States.The three say they mistakenly crossed into Iran.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were sentenced to three years for illegal entry into Iran and five years for spying for the United States. The two were arrested in July 2009 near the Iraq-Iran border along with a third American, Sarah Shourd, who was released in September on $500,000 bail and returned to the U.S. All three deny the charges, saying they were only hiking near the ill-defined border.

Under Iranian law , a conviction on espionage can carry up to a 10-year prison sentence, while a sentence for illegal entry can run from six months to three years in jail. The terms are often significantly reduced upon appeal.

Shafiei said Bauer and Fattal were notified about the court ruling in prison on Saturday by Iranian authorities.

Iranian state TV first reported the verdict.

On Sunday, Aug. 21, Tehran's chief prosecutor Jafari Dowlatabadi confirmed the sentences and said the Americans have 20 days to appeal. He also said that Shourd's case "is still open and will be tried in absentia."

The Americans say they mistakenly crossed into Iran when they stepped off a dirt road while hiking near a waterfall in July 2009. While other parts of Iraq remain troubled by violence, the semiautonomous Kurdish north has drawn tourists in recent years, including foreigners.

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said he hoped "the trial of the two American defendants who were detained for the crime of illegally entering Iran will finally lead to their freedom."

The gap between words by Salehi and the verdict indicates increasing rift between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration and hardline judiciary, controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has final say on all state matters.