Yesterday President Ahmadinejad said that he would pardon and free Nation writer Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal after more than two years in captivity, and it appeared that their ordeal would finally be at an end. Today brings bad news. Now, according to Iranian state media Press TV, the Iranian judiciary is denying President Ahmadinejad’s claim. The announcement by the judiciary said that they are still reviewing pleas from Bauer and Fattal’s lawyer, Massoud Shaifee. It also said that all other accounts are “not considered reliable.”

In August we reported on an internal power struggle between Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (Power Struggle in Iran Pits President Against Supreme Leader”), one that has involved arrests and firings of Ahmadinejad and Khamenei surrogates. The judiciary is controlled by Khamenei and his clerics, and it now appears that Bauer and Fattal have become pawns in their contest. I’m reaching out to Iran observers today to get a better sense of why and how this happened, and I’ll report more here if I hear anything.