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Washington and its European allies worry that Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as cover to develop atomic weapons and have urged even stronger sanctions to pressure Tehran. Iran denies any efforts to make nuclear weapons.

Iranian officials, meanwhile, is deeply concerned about the U.S. military on its borders in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they sharply denounces U.S. influence in the Middle East.

Mr. Fattal’s mother, Laura Fattal, of Elkins Park, Pa., told the AP that she could not comment on the court decision. There was no immediate comment from Mr. Bauer’s family.

Miss Shourd is living in Oakland, Calif.; Mr. Fattal is from suburban Philadelphia; and Mr. Bauer, who proposed marriage to Miss Shourd while in prison, grew up in Onamia, Minn.

The last direct contact family members had with Mr. Bauer and Mr. Fattal was in May 2010 when their mothers were permitted a short visit in Tehran.

The two men’s case most closely parallels that of freelance journalist Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American who was convicted of spying before being released in May 2009. Ms. Saberi was sentenced to eight years in prison, but an appeals court reduced that to a two-year suspended sentence and let her return to the U.S.

At the time, a spokesman for the Iranian judiciary said the court ordered the reduction as a gesture of “Islamic mercy” because Mr. Saberi had cooperated with authorities and expressed regret.

In May 2009, a French academic, Clotilde Reiss, also was freed after her 10-year sentence on espionage-related charges was commuted.

Last year, Iran freed an Iranian-American businessman, Reza Taghavi, who was held for 29 months for alleged links to a bombing in the southern city of Shiraz, which killed 14 people. Mr. Taghavi has denied any role in the attack.

Associated Press writers Patrick Walters in Philadelphia and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.