Iran president offers little hope on US hikers' release

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) - November 23, 2009 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the hikers entered Iran illegally and that a judge will decide their fate. He said he hopes the punishment is not severe.

The Americans were detained by Iranian authorities after having crossed an unmarked border into Iran while hiking in northern Iraq in July. The U.S. says the three were innocent tourists on an adventure hike and accidentally crossed into Iran.

Ahmadinejad made the comments Monday, two days after an Iraqi official said Baghdad had contacted Tehran in a bid to secure the release of three Americans detained in Iran - but received no reply.

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