Eighteen months after their ordeal began, after they mistakenly hiked over the Iranian border in northern Iraq, detained U.C. Berkeley grads Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer finally saw a courtroom yesterday in Tehran -- or did they? Judicial proceedings are kept extremely private in Iran, so we don't know if Josh and Shane were present for the first day of their trial, but we do know that their lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Technically, Sarah Shourd, who was freed last fall on $500,000 bail, should have been there too, and whoever posted her bail will be forfeiting that.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad has asked the court for leniency in the case, but he doesn't actually have great power over the judiciary, which is run by the nation’s ruling clerics and which convicted American-Iranian journalist Roxanna Saberi of espionage in 2009. An Iranian political analyst however says that the court proceeding may not be predictable, and points to Saberi's exoneration on appeal as evidence that the courts can be reasonable.