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US 'Deeply Disappointed' With Hikers' Sentence in Iran

A picture released by Iran's state-run Press TV shows US hikers Shane Bauer (L) and Josh Fattal (R), detained in Iran on spying charges, during the first session of their trial, February 6, 2011 (file photo)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she is "deeply disappointed" that Iran has sentenced two American hikers to eight years in prison on charges of illegal entry and spying.

Clinton issued her statement Sunday, saying it is time for the two Americans, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, to be returned home. She said she joins President Barack Obama in expressing "unflagging support" for the two men, who were arrested with a woman companion more than two years ago while hiking along the Iraq-Iran border.

Their lawyer says he will appeal the sentence, which was confirmed on Saturday. The hikers' families also released a statement saying that of the 751 days the men have been imprisoned, these last two have been the hardest.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi on Sunday confirmed leaked reports that Bauer and Fattal were given five-year prison sentences for spying and three additional years for illegal entry into the country.

The men have 20 days to appeal. Their trial was held behind closed doors and the evidence against them has not been made public.

Bauer and Fattal were arrested on July 31, 2009, along with a third American, Sarah Shourd. She was freed on $500,000 bail last year and returned to the United States. The three have 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.

The United States, which does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, has repeatedly called for the hikers' immediate release from Tehran's notorious Evin prison.