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Iran Considers Release of US Hikers


American hikers Shane Bauer (L) and Josh Fattal attend the first session of their trial at the revolutionary court in Tehran, Iran February 6, 2011.

American hikers Shane Bauer (L) and Josh Fattal attend the first session of their trial at the revolutionary court in Tehran, Iran February 6, 2011.

The lawyer for two Americans jailed in Iran says he needs the signature of one more judge on bail papers before his clients can be released.

Masoud Shafiei said Saturday he hopes Iran's judiciary will clear the way for the payment of $1 million bail in exchange for the release of the two men.

Meanwhile, Iran's foreign minister says the release of hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer would be a gesture of Islamic mercy. During a Saturday news conference, Ali Akbar Salehi also urged the U.S. to free Iranians held in U.S. prisons.

Last month, Iran gave Bauer and Fattal eight years sentences on charges of spying and illegally entering the country.

They were arrested on July 31, 2009, along with a third American, Sarah Shourd, who was freed on $500,000 bail last year and returned to the United States.

The trio has always proclaimed their innocence and said they were hiking in the mountains of northern Iraq while on vacation. They said that if they crossed the unmarked border into Iran, it was by mistake.

Earlier this week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Bauer and Fattal would be released soon. But Iran's judiciary responded that the bail provisions were still under review.

The United States, which does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, has repeatedly called for the hikers' freedom.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday she had received word through a number of sources that the two men would soon be released.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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