Shockwaves from the eight-year prison sentence handed down to two American hikers in Iran, including Elkins Park native Josh Fattal, reverberated throughout the community yesterday.
“We were all shocked and horrified to hear the news,” said Fattal’s neighbor and former middle school teacher Phyllis Williams, who said the development was the main topic of discussion at her synagogue yesterday. “We’re still hoping they’ll show compassion because it’s Ramadan and release these innocent boys.”
Fattal and fellow hiker Shane Bauer have already spent more than two years in Iranian prison. Their lawyer told The Associated Press yesterday that he plans to appeal the conviction. The men, both 29, were sentenced to three years each for illegal entry into Iran and five years each for spying for the United States. A third hiker, Sarah Shourd, was previously released due to medical reasons.
Earlier this month, Iran’s foreign minister, hinted that the hikers’ trial could lead to their freedom.
“The judiciary in Iran is independent of the executive and the legislative branches of government.
They do not always agree,” said University of Pennsylvania professor and former Director of the American Institute of Iranian Studies Brian Spooner.
Josh Fattal’s family did not returns calls for comment yesterday, but the two families issued a joint statement.
Of the 751 days of Shane and Josh’s imprisonment, yesterday and today have been the most difficult for our families,” the statement said. “Shane and Josh are innocent and have never posed any threat to the Islamic Republic of Iran, its government or its people … We appeal to the authorities in Iran to show compassion and allow them to return home to our families without delay.”