The trial for Josh Fattal and Investigative Fund reporter Shane Bauer, imprisoned in Iran for more than a year and a half, began yesterday in Tehran. Sarah Shourd, who was released last September on a compassionate basis, is also being tried in absentia. The three were charged with spying and entered pleas of not guilty during the five-hour hearing, according to their attorney, Masoud Shafiei. A next court session has not yet been scheduled, he said.

No observers were allowed in the judicial chambers; even Swiss Ambassador Livia Leu Agosti, who represents U.S. interests in Iran, was barred from attending.

The families of the three defendants issued a joint statement, which read in part:

We are pleased that Shane and Josh have had the opportunity to explain their innocence to the court and hope that the Iranian authorities will now move to resolve their case.

Now that the court has heard their testimony first hand, we hope and pray that truth and justice will at long last prevail. In the meantime, we continue to worry terribly about their well-being after such a lengthy detention.

The families also expressed concern that Bauer and Fattal had not been allowed to meet with their lawyer at the closed-door trial.

Bauer, Fattal, and Shourd have been accused by Iranian officials of illegally crossing the border into Iran from Iraq in July 2009. But a joint investigation by The Investigative Fund and The Nation found that the three were likely arrested on the Iraq side of the border, a scenario that has since been confirmed by State Department cables leaked by Wikileaks.

We’ll post more information as we get it.