Detained Hiker Sarah Shourd Released From Iran Prison

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Sarah Shourd, one of the three UC Berkeley alumni detained in Iran under accusations of espionage, was released from Evin Prison in Tehran Tuesday morning following her detention of more than a year after being captured while hiking near the Iran-Iraq border.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Shourd was released on "compassionate grounds" due to her serious medical problems, according to The Associated Press. But the Iranian government was paid $500,000 bail to Iran's Bank Melli by an unnamed source to ensure Shourd's release, major media outlets reported.

Shourd arrived in Oman early Tuesday morning on a private government jet. In a statement to the press, she said she was "humbled" by her experience.

"You know, when I go back to my country, I will never say anything but the truth to the media and I will not succumb to any pressure," Shourd said in the statement. "My commitment to the truth will not change."

According to Andy Laney of the U.S. Department of State's press office, the United States did not post any bail in exchange for Shourd's release. He said the final conditions of her release are unknown, but U.S. officials speculate that the Iranian government "must have received some assurances or agreed to some conditions in addition to the bail."

Shourd's family originally asked the Iranian government on Monday to drop or lower the bail amount as they were having trouble raising the money, prompting questions as to the identity of the bail payment's source.

"(Shourd) is due back tomorrow, but there is a lot of intrigue surrounding (the bail)," said Barbara Whitaker of The Associated Press. "Who is this mystery person?"

Shourd's mother, Nora Shourd, said in a statement released Tuesday morning that her daughter's freedom was "bittersweet," as both Sarah Shourd's fiance Shane Bauer and friend Josh Fattal are still detained. According to statements released by the Iranian government, the two hikers will remain in prison for at least another two months as part of their "pretrial detention."

"I have hoped and prayed for this moment for 410 days," Nora Shourd said in the statement. "I am going to make sure that Sarah now gets the care and attention she needs and the time and the space to recover."

Last month, media outlets reported that Sarah Shourd had found a lump in her breast, raising international concern over the conditions in the Iranian prison. In addition to the lump, Shourd's mother had previously told the press that her daughter had discovered precancerous cervical cells.

Shourd, Bauer and Fattal were detained in Iran after they were arrested on July 31, 2009. The Iranian judiciary accused them of spying and illegally entering the country, though the three UC Berkeley alumni maintain that they got lost during a hike in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. A June report by The Nation magazine revealed that the hikers actually seized on Iraqi soil.

The U.S. government has insisted that it has no official connection to the hikers.

Originally, Iranian leaders said Shourd would be released as early as this past Saturday, but later retracted the announcement following internal political arguments as to whether allowing payment for Shourd's freedom would violate U.N. sanctions against Iran.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in statements that extensive collaborations with Omani and Swiss diplomats led to the Shourd's successful release.

"I welcome Sarah Shourd's release from detention in Iran," Clinton said in a statement on the State Department's website. "We remain hopeful that Iran will demonstrate renewed compassion by ensuring the return of Shane, Josh and all other missing or detained Americans in Iran."


Contact Katie Nelson at [email protected]

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