Thanks to a judge's vacation, two Americans jailed as spies in Iran will have to wait for freedom another two days, after being locked up for more than two years.
A bail-for-freedom deal for Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal hit another snag today. A judge whose signature is needed on the bail papers is on vacation until Tuesday, the Americans' lawyer told ABC News, meaning the men will have to spend two more days in a Tehran prison.
One judge signed the paperwork Saturday, after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad announced plans to release Bauer and Fattal last week.
The 29-year-old Americans were detained while hiking along the Iran-Iraq border in July 2009, and were charged with spying for the United States.
A third American, Sarah Shourd, was detained with them, but she was released last September with mediation by Oman after her $500,000 bail was paid. The payment of bail in the cases must be arranged through third parties, like Oman, due to United States' economic sanctions on Iran.
The men were convicted last month for spying and illegally entering Iran, and were both sentenced to eight years in prison. They appealed the verdicts and an Iranian court set bail of $500,000 each, opening the way for their release.
Bauer, a freeland fournalist, and Fattal, and environmental activist, have denied the charges, saying they were just hiking in Iraq's scenic north, and may have accidentally crossed an unmarked border with Iran.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has received word that Iran does intend to release the Americans, although other roadblocks have emerged recently that have slowed the release.
Earlier this week, officials within Iran's government raised objections to the bail-for-freedom plan, which ABC's Jim Sciutto says shows just how sensitive the situation is, even within Iran.
Sciutto, reporting from Oman, reports that all the delays provide a window into internal politics in Iran. The president, the foreign ministry, even the judiciary are all on record saying they support the release, but some elements within the government are trying to deny Ahmedinejad what he clearly seems to want: a grand gesture before he travels to the U.S. Monday for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.
Oman sent a plane to Tehran on Wednesday to take the pair out of the country when a deal is reached, but has remained tightlipped about its invovlement for fear of jeopardizing the deal, as some officials in Iran have said the bail provisions are still under review. Still, Sciutto reports, it appears that the release will go through, despite the drama and frustration at the end of the 26-month imprisonment.