Detained US Hiker Released From Iranian Jail.
(Sept. 14) — Sarah Shourd, one of three American hikers detained for more than a year in Iran, has been released from jail upon payment of a $500,000 bail and left the country today, according to Iranian state media.
The 32-year-old boarded a flight to the Gulf sultanate of Oman, where she was met by her mother, Nora.
Before departing, Shourd thanked Iran for her release.
“I want to really offer my thanks to everyone in the world, all of the governments, all of the people that have been involved. And I especially and particularly want to address President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and all the Iranian officials, the religious leaders, and thank them for this humanitarian gesture,” Shourd said on Press TV before leaving Iran.President Barack Obama thanked diplomats in Oman and Switzerland who negotiated the release. But he asked Iran to free the other two Americans who remain in custody, according to CNN.
“While Sarah has been released, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal remain prisoners in Iran who have committed no crime,” Obama said. “We remain hopeful that Iran will demonstrate renewed compassion by ensuring the return of Shane, Josh and all the other missing or detained Americans in Iran.”
Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, said Shourd was freed as soon as the bail was paid into an Iranian bank in Muscat, Oman, according to The Associated Press.
It’s not yet clear who made that deposit, as her family members previously said they were struggling to raise the money. A U.S. State Department spokesman insisted at a press briefing in Washington that the U.S. did not make the payment.
The three families said they had mixed feelings about Shourd’s release, according to the AP.
“All of our families are relieved and overjoyed that Sarah has at last been released but were also heartbroken that Shane and Josh are still being denied their freedom for no just cause,” they said in a statement.
Before the reunion in Oman, Shourd’s mother said she would be elated to see her daughter.
“I cannot wait to wrap Sarah in my arms and hold her close when we are finally together again. Sarah has had a long and difficult detainment, and I am going to make sure that she now gets the care and attention she needs and the time and space to recover,” she told the AP.The three graduates of the University of California at Berkeley were arrested on July 31, 2009, after they allegedly crossed the border from neighboring Iraq. Their families say that if they stepped across the poorly marked, mountainous frontier at all, they did so unwittingly, but Iranian officials claim that the trio entered the country with “suspicious aims.”
Jafari-Dolatabadi said Sunday that an indictment against the three Americans had been issued and that their cases would soon be submitted to a court. He added that the three would face trial for espionage, which in Iran is punishable by death.
However, while Jafari-Dolatabadi demanded that Bauer and Fattal stay in prison and face those allegations, he ruled that Shourd could be released on bail due to her failing health. Shourd’s mother told Agence France-Presse last month that her daughter was being held in solitary confinement and denied medical treatment despite suffering from a precancerous cervical condition, a lump in her breast and depression.
Under Iranian law, Shourd is obliged to return for future court proceedings. However, it is expected she will forfeit the $500,000 surety and choose to avoid the trial.
Her release today marks the end of a protracted period of political jockeying between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his ultra-conservative rivals in the judiciary, which is overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. On Sept. 10, the Foreign Ministry announced that Ahmadinejad had personally intervened in the case and that Shourd would be released on Sept. 11 — the last day of Ramadan — as a sign of the “special viewpoint of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the dignity of women.”
But just a few hours later, the judiciary slapped down that ruling, declaring it only had the power to make a final announcement on the case. Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born political analyst based in Israel, told the AP that the judiciary allowed the release to go ahead once it was certain that Ahmadinejad had “understood” that he shouldn’t try to erode the court’s authority.