Why the Trial of US Hikers Bauer and Fattal Has Been Postponed

As EA predicted in September, the trial of detained American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, scheduled for 6 November, has been postponed.

Officially, Iran’s Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei is claiming that the trial could not proceed because of the absence of Sarah Shourd, who was detained with Fattal and Bauer in July 2009 when they were walking along the Iran-Iraq border: “Due to the absence of the third person, the court has delayed the trial time so that in between this time the third person can return to Iran or, in the event of her refusal to appear, her case be dealt with differently.”

To be blunt, that is a very thin excuse. The cover for Shourd’s release, arranged just before President Ahmadinejad’s trip to New York, was that a $500,000 “guarantee” had been lodged that she would return for trial. Whether or not the money was actually placed in the control of Iran, that arrangement pretty much ensured that Shourd would not face further prosecution.

At the same time, the Iranian judiciary — which objected to Ahmadinejad’s plan to let Shourd go and undermined his original intention for a grand ceremony — saved face by insisting that Fattal and Bauer would face the full force of justice. The problem was that, as in July 2009, they had precious little evidence to bring a case that would hold up under scrutiny.


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