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Iran orders U.S. woman to return for spy trial or lose $500,000 bail

Iran has summoned an American woman to return to the country and stand trial on Sunday along with two other Americans still in custody and accused of spying after crossing the border from Iraq, a judiciary spokesman said Monday.

Their families say the Americans were just intrepid travelers out on a hike in northern Iraq's scenic -- and relatively peaceful -- Kurdish region when they were arrested on July 31, 2009. The only woman among them, Sarah Shourd, was released on bail in September and returned to the United States.

The U.S. government has denied the charges against them and demanded their release. Their lengthy detention has added to tensions between the two nations over issues like Iran's disputed nuclear program.

After her release, Shourd said in an interview with the New York Times that the three inadvertently crossed the unmarked border because a guard of unknown nationality gestured for them to approach.

A Revolutionary Court in Tehran has summoned Shourd to return and stand trial, said judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi in remarks carried on the state news agency, IRNA.

Her fiance Shane Bauer and their friend Josh Fattal remain in prison in Iran.

Shourd, of Oakland, Calif., has not disclosed any plans to return for trial. She did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on Monday.

Iran has warned it will seize the $500,000 bail if she does not return. Who provided the bail money that was paid as part of a deal brokered by the Gulf sultanate of Oman has never been clear.

On Monday, eight international figures, including actor Sean Penn, American academic Noam Chomsky and retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, issued an appeal for Iran to release the two men.

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