UPDATE - 21st August 2011:
Shane Bauer & Josh Fattal have each been sentenced to 8 years in jail in Iran.
Tehran prosecutor confirmed that Iran has sentenced two American hikers to eight years in prison each for illegal entry & espionage.
Amnesty International renewed calls for their immediate release, - “The conduct of this trial has quite simply made a mockery of justice... The way this case has been handled from the outset strongly suggests that they are being held as a bargaining chip to allow Iran to obtain unspecified concessions from the US government,” said Malcolm Smart, AI's Middle East Director.
Sarah related how a guard in Evin Prison pushed Josh Fattal down stairs because he was furious that he took extra food and then repeatedly threw his friend Shane Bauer against the wall of his cell until his head began to bleed, according to Sarah Shourd.
She also said the three friends feared they would be executed a few days after their arrest more than 22 months ago when a soldier who was guarding them began cocking his weapon.
Sarah she had no way of knowing what may have happened to Shane and Josh since her release. “My worst fear is that they’re not safe – especially when we haven’t seen them for so long.”
In a recent phone call from Shane and Josh to their families - the third phone call in nearly 2 years - they reported that they had been on a 17-day hunger strike because Iranian officials were not passing on letters to them.
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Sarah Shourd, her fiancé Shane Bauer, and their friend Josh Fattal, were detained by Iranian guards on 31st July, 2009 when on holiday in Iraqi Kurdistan.
All three were imprisoned in Iran and have been charged with espionage.
At the time, the Iraqi regional security chief in Sulaymaniyah, Hakim Qadir Humat Jan, said the area is poorly marked and the three simply lost their bearings…
"They came as tourists. Nothing about the way they were travelling points to a possibility of spying. Their financial situation was also weak — they travelled in a crowded bus and stayed at a cheap hotel — and they entered Kurdistan legally... I call on the Iranians to set them free."
The security chief added that the mountainous area where the Americans were arrested contains dense foliage and narrow trails, and it's difficult to make out where Iraqi Kurdistan ends and Iran begins.
Nearly 15 months later, Sarah Shourd was released on bail, after spending the entire time in solitary confinement.
The two men are still in Evin Prison, despite appeals for their release from numerous leading figures, including Archbishop Desmond TuTu, President Obama and American Muslim leaders.
Sarah, despite suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is dedicated to campaigning for her friends. Sarah suffers from insomnia, hyper-vigilance, extreme stress and nightmares - as a result of her treatment in prison, and her ongoing anxiety about Shane and Josh.
The two men were initially held in solitary confinement. For nearly 18 months, they have been sharing a small cell together for 23 hours a day.
They are held virtually incommunicado, with no medical care and with artificial lights permanently on.
They receive letters but are unable to send any. They have only been allowed three short phone calls and are denied access to their lawyer.
They recently went on hunger strike for 17 days when Iranian officials stopped delivering letters family letters to them.
The Iranian Regime announced last summer, before Sarah's release, that the trial would soon be starting. The trial did not in fact begin until February this year, in a closed-door session. The second session, scheduled for May, was postponed without explanation and no further date has been set.
Shane is an independent freelance photojournalist. His articles were frequently published by Al Jazeera.
Josh is an environmental teacher.
In statements relating to Shane and Josh, Amnesty International has twice warned that holding foreign nationals without due legal process amounts to hostage taking.
Shane and Josh's continued detention contravenes both international and Iranian law.
Sarah was told by her interrogator, early on in her detention in Evin Prison, that it didn’t matter whether they were innocent or not: ‘This is bigger than you – this has become political.”
Masoud Shafii, the families' Iranian lawyer has commented:
“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....Additionally, there is no evidence that would support their being spies. So, in such a case, normal legal routes must be taken."
Please sign the petition to the UN Rapporteurs to request their intervention on behalf of Shane and Josh.
CONCERN OVER ABUSE
I am more concerned than ever for the well-being of the prisoners, following Sarah Shourd's recent alarming revelation that Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have been physically assaulted in Evin Prison. There is no way of knowing what their present condition is, as I understand that they have not received visits for several months. Their state of health, following a recent 17-day hunger strike, is not known.
The mothers have spoken with their sons by telephone only three times and visited once.
Sisters and aging grandparents have had no contact at all. No mail has been received by the families apart from one short paragraph in a card received in January 2011.
Shane and Josh were initially kept in solitary confinement and have since been sharing a small cell together for over 15 months and have now been sentenced to a further 8 years.
As far as is known, they have 40 minutes daily in a larger room, with bars across an open ceiling - still just the two of them and this room is completely empty. Other than this, they never leave their cell. They have no access to pens and paper and have very few books. The artificial light is kept on continuously.
The mental health effects of this sort of psychological torture are not known - i.e. two prisoners locked up together in extreme isolation, with sensory deprivation, for an indeterminate length of time.
They have suffered physical abuse at least once and may have done so again.
It is thought that the prisoners have had no medical assessment, investigations or treatment, physical or mental, since April 2010 when they were taken for blood tests but were never told the results. I am concerned that their health could have deteriorated considerably.
The prisoners are not kept informed of the state of health of their families, which includes aging grandparents in poor health.
Other family members suffer increasing anxiety and stress-related problems.
Sarah Shourd, Shane’s fiancé, was kept in solitary confinement in Evin Prison for nearly 15 months and now suffers insomnia, hyper-vigilance, extreme stress and nightmares. Sarah’s condition is compounded by the continuous uncertainty of the fate of her friends. Moreover, Sarah is also on trial for espionage.
The lawyer had access to the prisoners only once - apart from during the trial sessions. The visit was for 5 minutes in September 2010, with investigator and prosecutor both present.
There have been only four visits by the Consular representatives, totalling no more than 2 and a half hours.
The trial began in February 2011 as a closed-door session.The next trial session, scheduled for 11th May 2011, was postponed without explanation. As you will be aware, the trial has finally concluded with sentences of 8 years for each prisoner, despite lack of evidence.
In August, 2010, Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi said that "investigations about the three Americans will be completed soon". However, it was another 6 months before their trial began.
In November, 2010, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, head of Iran’s Human Rights Council, told NBC News that his agency had been able to convince the authorities that Sarah Shourd was "not even capable of espionage." However, Sarah is also on trial.
In addition, Sarah Shourd was told by her interrogator, while in prison, that it did not matter whether she was innocent or not, as the case had "become political".
In July 2010, Amnesty International warned that the continuing detention of the US citizens could amount to hostage-taking and a very serious abuse of human rights...
10th May 2011, Amnesty International renewed their call for the release of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal:
“Holding foreign nationals with the sole purpose of seeking concessions amounts to hostage taking, and if that is the case here, Iran must immediately and unconditionally set these men free and allow them to leave the country,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
On the 21st August, 2011, Amnesty International issued a third call for immediate release and called the trial a 'mockery of justice.'
INTERNATIONAL AND IRANIAN LAW
As you will be aware, many laws have been and are being broken in this case, including:
The UN Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12,
The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, Articles 22, 24, 25, 37, 38, 39, 40, 44, 77, 78, 86, 90, 92 and 93.
The UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 7, 9, 10 and 14
Chapter III, Articles 32, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38 and 39
Chapter VI, Section 2, Article 90
Chapter XI, Articles 159, 165, 166, 171 and 173
I implore you to do all you can to ensure that Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal are, therefore, released immediately.
Thank you for your attention,