However, there were signs Wednesday of efforts to put up the $1 million bail that the hikers’ lawyer said court officials told him would be required to gain the release of the two men. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the Persian Gulf state of Oman had sent a private plane to Tehran, as the lawyer and the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. diplomatic interests in Iran, moved ahead with arrangements for the bail of $500,000 each for Bauer and Fattal.
In September 2010, a private jet was sent from Oman to Tehran to pick up Sarah Shourd, an American arrested with Bauer and Fattal, after Iranian authorities decided to release her on medical and humanitarian grounds and an Omani businessman paid her $500,000 bail.
The Obama administration pressed for additional information about the fate of the two men, but details remained scant. State Department officials said Wednesday that they were encouraged by the initial reports about the pending release but that they had heard nothing definitive from Iran or the Swiss government.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll see a positive outcome,” said spokesman Mark Toner.
Bauer and Fattal, both 29, were arrested with Shourd as they hiked along the Iran-Iraq border in July 2009. Last month, the men were sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of espionage.
“The news of pardoning two Americans convicted of spying that had been mentioned by some media is denied,” the judiciary’s statement said. It acknowledged that the men’s case is under review but stressed that the judiciary is the only valid source to comment on the matter.
“Any information given by other people is not correct,” the statement read.
The judiciary did not make reference in its statement to a $500,000 bail requirement. Masoud Shafiei, the Iranian lawyer representing the men, said Tuesday that the judiciary was demanding the payments.
The statement issued Wednesday highlights tensions between Ahmadinejad and the judiciary, strains that appear to be turning into an open rift over the hikers’ case.
When Shourd was released, Ahmadinejad announced that she could return home on “humanitarian grounds,” but the judiciary demanded $500,000 bail. Only after the bond was paid by an Omani businessman was Shourd allowed to return to the United States.
A year later, the judiciary continues to summon her for court cases, demonstrating its disapproval of Ahmadinejad’s action.
On Wednesday, Iran’s state-controlled media accused Ahmadinejad of acting against the constitution by saying he intended to grant Bauer and Fattal a “unilateral pardon.”