Another delay for American hikers in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have spent more than two years behind bars since their arrest in 2009 while hiking along the Iran-Iraq border. They were convicted for spying and sentenced to eight years in prison.

Under the deal, their prison sentence would be lifted, and the men would be released on $1 million bail. Sarah Shourd, a third American who was with them, was released after a similar deal last year.

But the deal was being held up because the judge was on vacation until Tuesday.

Masoud Shafiei told The Associated Press he was back in court awaiting the judge's return, but he had not turned up yet.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had raised hopes that Bauer and Fattal would be released in a matter of days, but it appears the powerful judiciary is holding up the possible deal.

Bauer and Fattal deny wrongdoing. Their families say the three Americans were just hiking in northern Iraq's scenic and relatively peaceful Kurdish region when they may have accidentally strayed over the unmarked border.

The last direct contact family members had with Bauer and Fattal was in May 2010 when their mothers were permitted a short visit in Tehran.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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