By Huw Borland, News.Sky.com
Iran has charged three detained US citizens with espionage, the Islamic republic’s judiciary has told reporters.
The foreigners were arrested after they strayed into Iran, from northern Iraq, at the end of July.
“We believe strongly that there is no evidence to support any charge whatsoever,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on a visit to Berlin.
Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, crossed the border accidentally, their families have insisted.
But Tehran general prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told news agency IRNA: “The three are charged with espionage. Investigations continue into the three detained Americans in Iran.”
Under Iran’s Islamic sharia law, espionage is punishable by death.
The republic’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggested in September that the detainees’ release might be linked to the release of Iranian diplomats he said were being held by US troops in Iraq.
But America has kept urging Tehran to release the trio, calling for “compassion” towards them.
Some Iranian authorities have linked the hikers’ illegal entry to violence that erupted after the country’s disputed presidential election in June.
Mr Ahmadinejad’s re-election sparked the republic’s worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Authorities deny vote-rigging and portrayed the dissent as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the Islamic state.
On Wednesday, police clashed with supporters of Iran’s opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in Tehran.
Crowds had used anti-US rallies to revive the protests against the clerical establishment after June’s vote.
The detainees’ families have been campaigning for their release at freethehikers.org.