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Lawyer for hikers freed by Iran denies abuse claims

The Iranian lawyer for the two U.S. hikers released on bail and repatriated last week after a two-year odyssey through Iran’s penal system appeared to distance himself from his clients in an interview published Monday, calling their accusations of mistreatment baseless and politically motivated.

The comments by the lawyer, Masoud Shafiei, made in an interview with Iran’s Fars news agency, came a day after a news conference held in New York by the Americans, Joshua F. Fattal and Shane M. Bauer, both 29. In their first comments on U.S. soil, they provided new details about their captivity in Iran on spying and trespass charges before their release on $500,000 bail each, granted Sept. 21 by Iran’s judiciary.

The Americans said their captors had regularly blindfolded them and withheld mail sent by their families. Sometimes, they said, they heard the screams of other inmates at Tehran’s Evin Prison, where they spent 781 days.

In the Fars news agency interview, Shafiei cast doubt on the Americans’ accusations. If they had been mistreated, Shafiei was quoted as saying, they could have raised a complaint during their court hearings.

“If my clients contact me, as an Iranian national, I will definitely inform them of my protest at their baseless claims,” the lawyer was quoted as saying. “Why have they made such allegations when their problem has been resolved and they have left the country?”

Reached by telephone after Fars published the interview, Shafiei said some of his comments had been misconstrued. He said he was never able to consult with his clients in private and therefore did not know about their claims of mistreatment. Nonetheless, Shafiei did not deny the Fars account or say he would seek a retraction.

—Rick Gladstone, The New York Times

Six suspects charged in British terrorism plot

LONDON — Six men have been charged with planning an act of terrorism in Britain, as part of a plot that included training in Pakistan, preparing for suicide bombings and constructing an explosive device, the police said Monday.

The men, ages 25-32, are all from Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city. Four were charged with “preparing for an act of terrorism in the U.K.,” and the other two were charged with failing to disclose information. A seventh man was being questioned, the West Midlands police force said in a statement.

The men were arrested last week in a raid led by the counterterrorism unit of Britain’s West Midlands police.

The police have given no details of the alleged plot, but a police statement said the arrests were part of a “major operation” prompted by intelligence work, a formulation that has often been used to describe a lengthy period of surveillance by undercover units and Britain’s secret intelligence and security agencies, MI5 and MI6.

—John F. Burns and Ravi Somaiya, The New York Times