TEHRAN, Aug 20: Iran has sentenced two American hikers to eight years in prison for illegal entry and spying for a US intelligence agency, state television said on Saturday quoting an informed judiciary source.

“Shane Bauer ... and ... Josh Fattal, the two detained American citizens, have been each sentenced to three years in prison for illegal entry to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the television reported on its website.

It also said the two have been “sentenced to five years in prison on charges of espionage for the American intelligence agency,” without saying when the verdict had been reached.

“The case of Sarah Shourd, who has been freed on bail is still open,” the report said, referring to the third hiker, who is being tried in absentia.

The verdict is expected to further raise tension between Washington and Tehran.

Washington has vehemently denied Tehran’s charge that the three were spies and has called on the Islamic republic to release Bauer and Fattal.

On Saturday it said it was seeking to confirm the latest report.

“We are working to confirm these reports and are in contact with the Swiss Protecting Power to obtain more information,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

“We have repeatedly called for the release of Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, who have now been held in Iran's Evin prison for two years,” she added.

“Shane and Josh have been imprisoned too long, and it is time to reunite them with their families.”

The Swiss embassy, which handles US interests in Iran since diplomatic relations were severed in 1980, said it was not in a position to confirm the report.

According to the state television website, the two men have 20 days to appeal against the verdict.

The lawyer for the three Americans, Masoud Shafii, told AFP he had not been informed of any decision since their trial ended on July 31.—AFP

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