• 9 November 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • Events in Iran

(Updated) Espionage Charges for American Hikers?

Reuters is reporting that the three Americans who crossed into Iran while hiking in Iraq are being charged with espionage.

“The three are charged with espionage. Investigations continue into the three detained Americans in Iran,” Tehran general prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said.

The three were held after they strayed into Iran from northern Iraq at the end of July.

The three, Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, crossed into Iranian territory nearly two months ago. Their families say they strayed across the border accidentally.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggested in an interview with the American television network NBC in September that the Americans’ release might be linked to the release of Iranian diplomats he said were being held by U.S. troops in Iraq.

Under Iran’s Islamic sharia law, espionage is punishable by death.”

Important update (h/t Sanaz): According to IRNA, the hikers are “accused” of espionage, not charged. Tehran’s prosecutor said “investigations about these three people continue and an opinion will be issued soon…”


Posted By Matt Sugrue

    10 Responses to “(Updated) Espionage Charges for American Hikers?”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Unfortunately, this is just another case in a long series of US-Iran detainees, such as the US military’s seizure of Iranian diplomats in Iraqi Kurdistan, and Roxanne Saberi being found in possession of a top secret Iranian defense document.

    There are also the cases of investigation and detention of certain muslims in America found taking photos of various US landmarks, as well as the Iranian-American filmmaker who spent months in a US military prison in Iraq without charge (he was even a US military veteran!).

    The list goes on…

    Just more reason why improved US-Iran relations should be the priority, rather than tit-for-tat political condemnation and antagonisms.

  2. Iranian-American says:

    Well, let’s be fair. The Iranian government is far worse than than American government in this respect. In America we debate whether water-boarding is torture. The problem in Iran is much worse. There political prisoners are being raped and killed, and then victims never see justice.

    Furthermore, this is not about US-Iran relations. This is about how ruthless and backward the Iranian government is. I would ask you to remember Zahra Kazemi, who was not even an American citizen. She was Canadian. According to a former staff physician in Iran’s Defence Ministry (Shahram Azam) who examined her, Kazemi had been brutally raped, had her skull fractured, two broken fingers, a crushed big toe, a broken nose, severe abdominal bruising, swelling behind the head, etc.

    Please don’t be so proud as to try to defend the indefensible.

    The unfortunate truth is that much of the negative perception that the outside world has about Iran does not come from close-minded Muslim hating Christians; it comes from the actions of the Iranian government. Much of the positive perception that the outside world has about Iran comes from the Iranian peoples rejection of its government. This is especially true of Iranian who risk their lives to protest and make it known to the world that the Iranian government does not represent a large part of the Iranian people.

  3. Alireza says:

    Can Pirouz please supply evidence that Saberi was “in possession of a top secret Iranian defense document”? I would be interested to see it.

    P.S. The mere claims of Iranian officials or Iranian media outlets do not constitute “evidence”, just as the claims of U.S. officials or media outlets do not constitute “evidence” either.

  4. sam david says:

    It always gets me sick to hear how our government backs Israel over and over.Just because Iran has nukes but we all know that they really don’t.American media is doing the same thing it did with Iraq, making a war.I think the media should be held accountable for telling wrong stories that can lead to death or a war.So the big ?? is who is responsible the gov. or the media or both.I think its about time for our gov. to abandon Israel and stop them from attacking Iran

  5. Ali says:

    The hikers will be fine. They’re just being held so that Iran can get a better deal in its talks with the West. They will be released with no harm done. It’s not like in Thailand, where even Americans arrested for smuggling drugs end up spending their lives in prison without the US government being able to do anything. The hikers were dumb enough to hike on the border; they were detained just as they would be in any other country; and they are probably being treated to chello kabob as we speak. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same thing for the Iranian protesters who are being raped and tortured by the government.

  6. Iranian-American says:

    … and I almost forgot to mention that the only Iranian security agent to be charged for the brutal murder of Kazemi was acquitted of the charge of “quasi-intentional murder”.

    This is really very shameful. The entire world should pass resolutions condemning the Iranian government’s human-rights violations against Iranian citizens. And yes, they should also pass resolutions condemning Israel’s human-rights violations against Palestinians. I am an Iranian, so I hope you will excuse me for being more concerned with the suffering of my fellow Iranians.

  7. Sanaz says:

    According to IRNA, the hikers are “accused” of espionage, not charged. Tehran’s prosecutor said “investigations about these three people continues and an opinion will be issued soon…”


  8. Pirouz says:

    Swiss diplomats have visited the three American (accidental?) infiltrators. They reported they were fine. Was anyone permitted to visit the Iranian diplomats held by the US Military? Or the Iranian filmmaker held in Iraq? No. It’s not too hard to guess that their conditions of incarceration made up at least part of the reason.

    You’re right. Let’s not try to defend the indefensible. Let’s not defend Guantanimo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib. Let’s not defend the detention of muslims after 9/11 (some of whom were Iranian). Let’s not defend the illegal war of so-called choice in Iraq. Or the continued murder of Afghan civilians by drone attacks. We’re talking here about inflicted casualties well exceeding a hundred-thousand, with millions forced to leave their homes to become destitute refugees). All of this done on US taxpayer money, so indirectly we all share in the shame. I won’t even go into the shame that is Palestine. Or the massive flooding of cheap drugs into Iran; the result of an ineffectual US led military occupation of Afghanistan.

    But we’re drifting off-topic here.

    Kazemi is also off-topic, but I’ll address it. Do we here in America seek international condemnation for the imperfections of our own criminal justice system? Have we done so for Rodney King? The “Oakland Riders”? Oscar Grant? Phoung Ho? etc. etc.

    One of the journalist organizations that supported Saberi during her trial has recently come out and criticized her for illegally having that secret Iranian document in her possession. To date, Saberi has yet to deny she was in possession of such.

  9. Iranian-American says:

    For the record, you definitely did not address Kazemi. When the topic is foreigners who are unfairly arrested in Iran, Kazemi is very much on-topic. Rodney King, Oscar Grant, Phoung Ho and drones in Afghanistan would more accurately be described as “off-topic”.

  10. Alireza says:


    On a number of occasions I’ve pointed out the fact that the IRI has executed well over 15,000 Iranians since its inception. I’ve never heard a response from you regarding this fact, but ratehr attempts to compare the repression of the IRI with the repression of antiwar and civil rights protestors in the U.S. When was the last time the U.S. government executed 15,000 Americans? (And FYI, I’ve opposed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from the very beginning).

    Also, you’re playing a little fast and loose with the facts re: Saberi. You state: “Saberi has yet to deny she was in possession of such”. Here’s an excerpt from a Wikipedia entry that shows that she has denied it and that there are, in fact, two sides to this story. We would do well to treat both sets of claims with scepticism, rather than simply repeating the IRI’s claims as undisputed fact, as you have done:

    “An appeals court reduced the charge against her from espionage to possessing classified information,[33][34] a charge Saberi denied,[8] and reduced her eight-year prison term to a two-year suspended sentence.[9][10]

    After Saberi was released from prison, one of her lawyers declared that she had obtained a classified document while working as a translator for a powerful clerical lobby. He claimed that this had been used as evidence to convict her on charges of espionage.[35] He said the document was a classified Iranian report on the U.S.-led war in Iraq.[36]

    Saberi later said, “The Iranian government claimed that I had a classified document, but I don’t think it was classified.” She stated that the Iranian authorities were unaware that she had the document in question until, “they pressured me to confess that I had classified documents, and I didn’t have any, but I started describing the documents that I did have. And so, later, they brought me to my home and I gave them the ones that they didn’t already have. But when I gave them this one, I looked at it and I said, ‘See, there’s no classified stamp on it; it’s not classified.'”[8] Saberi has suggested that the lawyer may have been under pressure from the Iranian government to say after her release that the document was classified, even though in court he had argued that it was not.[8]”

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Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
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Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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