MINNEAPOLIS – The mother of one of two American hikers still jailed in Iran said Tuesday that she's been told they will stand trial in November and that she's relieved they will get to formally deny the espionage charges against them.
Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal remain in Tehran's Evin Prison more than a month after the release of Bauer's fiancee, Sarah Shourd, who was freed after complaining of health problems.
Bauer's mother, Cindy Hickey of Pine City, Minn., said a Tehran-based lawyer representing the hikers' families told them recently that her son and Fattal would stand trial Nov. 6.
"You don't know how anxiously we're awaiting that trial," Hickey said. "The idea that there's a trial at all is totally ridiculous, because these guys are not guilty of any crime. But at least it's a sign that things are moving."
The families say Bauer and Shourd, who had been living in Syria, were hiking with their visiting friend Fattal in July 2009 in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region, near the Iranian border, when Iranian forces took them into custody and accused them of intentionally crossing it.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday renewed the U.S. request that the hikers be released.
"There are many areas where we need to be discussing matters between the United States and Iran that are of great significance to not only our two countries but the world," she said. "And it's unfortunate that Iran would be holding for now more than a year two young men who should be released and returned to their families."
Earlier Tuesday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters in Washington that he didn't have any information on a trial date. But he added: "Our position's obviously well known on this matter. We believe that they've done nothing wrong and that they should be released immediately."
Hickey said she and other family members have provided their attorney with much information to rebut the spying charges, which Hickey has called particularly ludicrous given that Bauer was a freelance journalist for left-wing publications critical of U.S. foreign policy.
Hickey said she and Fattal's mother, Laura Fattal, have no plans to travel to Iran for the proceedings. She said they doubt they could obtain visas and that they don't want to be a distraction.
Hickey said the families' lawyer, Masoud Shafii, could provide few other details about the pending trial, including whether the hikers would be tried together or separately. Shafii has not been allowed to meet with his clients since they were formally charged in mid-September with espionage and illegally crossing a border, Hickey said.
Bauer and Shourd later became engaged while in prison. Shourd was released from custody on Sept. 14, and has returned home to California, where she continues to speak out for the release of Bauer and Fattal.
Hickey is back home after more than three weeks of travel related to Shourd's release. She helped plan a showing at the University of Minnesota this Saturday of "Songs of Enemies and Deserts," a documentary Bauer and a fellow journalist made about residents of Africa's civil war-beset Darfur region.
Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Washington.