Two young American Berkeley graduates, Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, both 28 years old, who were arrested along the Iran-Iraq border two years ago. They maintained that they had merely been hiking along the mountains, had gotten lost, and would up in Iran. They have been in custody in Iran since. (A third student who was with them at the time, Sarah Shourd, was allowed to leave after paying $500,000 in bail, according to Reuters.) Now, Iranian state television reports that Bauer and Fattal have been sentenced to eight years in Iranian prison for spying. These facts as they stand, to put it mildly, give rise to more questions than answers.
Did they really just get lost? The eight year prison sentence is comprised of two parts, Al-Jazeera reports. Both Bauer and Fattal "have been each sentenced to three years in prison for illegal entry to the Islamic Republic of Iran" and then separately "sentenced to five years in prison on charges of espionage for the American intelligence agency." For such a separate, serious charge, what evidence are they citing? According to the Los Angeles Times: none. "Iranian officials allege that the two men were spies, but have yet to publicly present any evidence." President Obama has denied that the Americans had any link to American intelligence, Reuters reports. And Al-Jazeera adds that they had plead not guilty to spying charges, even saying that they crossed into the unmarked Iran border by mistake.