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American Hikers in Iran: Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer To Be Released or Not


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Jailed American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer will not be released this weekend after their lawyer failed to get a second judge to sign off on their $1 million bail. The silver lining in this otherwise dark cloud is that the judge happens to be on vacation until Tuesday, so there's a chance they could be released then.

Their attorney Masoud Shafiei said he will seek the other signature on Tuesday when the judge returns. This is just the latest snag for the two Americans who have been in prison in Iran for more than two years on trumped up espionage charges.

Fattal and Bauer were sentenced to eight years in prison earlier in the summer, but many had hopes that they would get out of prison upon an appeal. Bauer's fiance Sarah Shourd - was released last year as a humanitarian pledge to the U.S.

The saga surrounding the two American hikers has been a seesaw over the past two years, particularly over the past week.

Earlier this week - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed in an interview with NBC's Ann Curry that two jailed hikers would be released possibly this weekend. Then, Iranian Judicial officials rebuked the President and stated he did not have the authority to make such a decision and there was no imminent release.

Then news broke on Thursday morning about a possible release according to sources close to the situation. On Wednesday an Omani plane was sent to Tehran with an Omani official who would negotiate their release.

Fattal and Bauer have become the victims of an epic political sideshow by the Iranians. On the one hand, we have Ahmadinejad trying to improve his global image by exploiting their situation. And, on the other hand - the Iranian justice system is looking to make the families of Fattal and Bauer sweat it out, because...they can. Josh Fattal is a native of Montgomery County - as his family still resides in Elkins Park, PA.

Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said the courts would consider commuting their sentences in the "near future" but gave no timetable. Added to that, Iranian officials may draw this out as a play to get America to release Iranian prisoners.

Hillary Clinton is pretty optimistic that the two jailed hikers will be relased from Iran before long, citing a few sources. That is certainly a positive.

Right now Iran has America by the cajones, but they ultimately won't gain anything from this. It makes them look even worse by using two innocent people (jailed on trumped up charges) as political pawns - even when they do release them.

To be released or not released that is still the question, which remains unanswered.

Contact Dennis Bakay at dbakay@philly2philly.com

Photo of Fattal and Bauer from AFP/Getty Images

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