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Free the Hikers: Iran Charges American Hikers With Espionage

Hiking signIt has been 101 days since Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were captured and imprisoned by Iranian guards after they reportedly wandered across an unmarked border while touring a remote mountainous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The three American hikers have been detained in Iran since July 31, and may now face charges of espionage, according to Iranian judicial officials.

It is still unclear at this point whether charges have been formally filed, but since talks have recent stalled around a nuclear proposal, many are wondering whether Iran is planning on using the hikers as a bargaining chip.

Tehran’s Prosecutor-General says he will announce the three hikers’ fate after looking into the espionage charges, according to an Iranian news source.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was swift to answer, pointing out that there is no evidence to support the charges, and once again requesting they be released.

Previously on Free the Hikers: Detained Travelers’ Families Send Plea for Release

Mahmoud AhmadinejadSources close to the investigation thought that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might release the hikers when he went to New York in September to address the United Nations General Assembly. Those hopes soon faded after Iran raised suspicions that the U.S. was involved in the kidnapping two Iranians who disappeared in Saudia Arabia and Georgia.

Iranian officials have suspected the three hikers of being spies since day one, so why is the announcement that charges may be filed coming now?

The U.S. and Iran are currently tied up in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran has become increasingly defiant on the matter since Ahmadinejad’s election in 2005, ignoring the U.N. Security Council’s demands to stop its uranium enrichment program.

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Iran's Lut Desert near ShahdadThe Islamic Republic has claimed it wants to develop a nuclear program to generate electricity without tapping into its oil supply, while American and European officials suspect Tehran has its sights set on building nuclear weapons.

Iran has stalled and missed the first deadline for a proposal that would have them swap enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods, which are more difficult to use in the construction of nuclear weapons.

In September, relatives of the hikers appeared on the Today show and wrote a letter appealing to Ahmadinejad as a father.

A recent post on has once again petitioned for their release, saying that the only way the trio could have ended up in Iran is if they made a mistake and got lost.

By Dan Bence for

Related links: NY Times, ABC News, links: