Two days after Iran's president announced the imminent release of two American men detained since 2009 under charges of espionage, Iran's courts say that Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal are far from free. The confusion hints at a growing tension between president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and hardliners in the Iranian government, and once again puts in jeopardy the fate of two men widely believed in the United States to be innocent. On Monday, Ahmadinejad said that the hikers would be released as a "humanitarian gesture" by week's end. But yesterday, Iran's courts said that he does not have the power to release the men, meaning that any release will come next week at earliest. Bauer, Fattal, and fellow hiker Sarah Shourd were charged with espionage and illegal entry into Iran in 2009. Shourd was freed last December, but in August Bauer and Fattal were sentenced to eight years in prison. Oman dispatched a plane and diplomat Wednesday to negotiate with Iran on behalf of the hikers. In 2010, Omani influence was instrumental in Iran's decision to release Shourd for medical reasons.
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