American Hiker Jailed In Iran To Be Released

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One of three Americans who has been detained in an Iranian jail for over a year will be released, according to media sources in Tehran.

Sarah Shourd, 32, was hiking in the Kurdistan region of Iraq with her fiance, Shane Bauer, 28; and Josh Fattal, also 28, when they allegedly crossed an unmarked border into Iran. The Iranian government has accused them of spying, and they have been in custody for more than a year. Shourd, who has been kept in solitary confinement, is allowed to see her fiance only twice a day, for half an hour at a time.

After a week’s worth of vacillation on the part of Iranian authorities, who first announced that she would be released at the end of Ramadan but then reneged, Shourd has been released on medical grounds. According to her family, she had a pre-existing gynecological condition and has also discovered a lump in her breast.

On Sunday, Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi announced Iran’s “readiness for the conditional release of one of the three U.S. citizens arrested for illegally entering the country,” adding that authorities had investigated the espionage charges against the hikers, and that the judge in charge of the case had issued indictments against them.

Experts on Iranian policy say that the timing of Shourd’s release is not coincidental, but is instead a public relations move on the part of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is traveling to the United States later this month for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

Upon the transfer of $500,000 in bail money to Iranian officials, Shourd will travel first to the Swiss Embassy, as Switzerland has been representing American interests in the negotiations to free the hikers, because the United States and Iran do not enjoy formal diplomatic relations.

A representative from the U.S. State Department, P.J. Crowley, spoke to reporters after the announcement of Shourd’s release, maintaining that she and her fellow hikers are innocent of espionage charges.

“We do not believe the hikers are guilty of any crime. Iran has had more than enough time to investigate and satisfy its questions about why these three individuals crossed an unmarked border,” he said. “We want to see this resolved. We are grateful to the Swiss and other countries that are working these issues on our behalf.”

 

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