(Updates with lawyer’s comment in second paragraph, Ahmadinejad at UN in third, details of Americans in last two.)
Sept. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Two U.S. citizens sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran for spying and illegal entry can be freed by paying $500,000 each, their defense lawyer said.
Masoud Shafiei said the Revolutionary Court summoned him today and informed him of the terms. The lawyer said he then relayed the information to the families of the Americans, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, and is awaiting their response. The men would be freed “immediately” after payment is arranged, Shafiei said in a telephone interview in Tehran.
Fattal and Bauer will be released “in a couple of days” on humanitarian grounds, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told NBC News in an interview aired today. Ahmadinejad is scheduled to visit the U.S. to attend the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York next week.
The men’s continued detention has added to tensions between Iran and the U.S., which says the Persian Gulf country may be seeking to build nuclear weapons. Iran rejects the allegation about its atomic work and says it needs the technology to secure energy for its growing population.
Bauer and Fattal, both 29, were sentenced Aug. 21 and have filed an appeal. They were detained in July 2009 upon entering Iran and said they had mistakenly crossed the border while hiking in Iraq. The U.S. has repeatedly called for their release. Sarah Shourd, a U.S. citizen who was arrested with them, was released in September 2010 on $500,000 bail. She left Iran immediately and didn’t return to stand trial.
Proposal for Swap
In February 2010, Ahmadinejad said Iran may be ready to exchange the detainees for Iranians held in the U.S., an overture that was dismissed by the State Department.
Shafiei said he told the Swiss Embassy of the offer to free Bauer and Fattal. The embassy has handled American interests in Iran since 1981, a year after the U.S. ended diplomatic relations with Iran following the taking of hostages at its embassy in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution.
Shourd and Bauer, a freelance journalist and photographer, are engaged, according to freethehikers.org, a website set up to help gain the Americans’ freedom. They had lived together in Syria’s capital, Damascus, where she learned Arabic and taught English. Fattal is an environmentalist who was visiting Damascus before they headed to Iraq, according to the website.
Bauer is a Minnesota native, Fattal is from Pennsylvania and Shourd is from California.
--Editors: Heather Langan, Andrew Atkinson, Digby Lidstone
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