Iran to free U.S. hiker on bail

TEHRAN, Iran — A senior Iranian prosecutor said Sunday that authorities will release a jailed American woman on $500,000 bail because of health problems, another sudden about-face by Iran in a case that has added to tension with the United States.

TEHRAN, Iran — A senior Iranian prosecutor said Sunday that authorities will release a jailed American woman on $500,000 bail because of health problems, another sudden about-face by Iran in a case that has added to tension with the United States.

The news came during a weekend of start-and-stop announcements about the release of Sarah Shourd, who was detained with two friends, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, along the Iran-Iraq border on July 31, 2009, and accused of spying.

The woman’s Iranian lawyer met with the three Americans in Tehran’s Evin prison on Sunday and said that he is hopeful Shourd will be released in next two or three days.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi said the conditions of her bail do not bar her from leaving the country, though her case will still go to trial along with those of the other two Americans, who must remain in custody.

“Based on reports and the approval of the relevant judge about the sickness of Ms. Shourd, her detention was converted to $500,000 bail, and if the bail is deposited, she can be released,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Dowlatabadi as saying.

Shourd’s mother has said she has been denied treatment for serious health problems, including a breast lump and precancerous cervical cells.

Her lawyer, Masoud Shafiei, met with the Americans in the prosecutor’s office at the prison and said he provided a final letter of defence in her case.

“All of the three were fine and I was with them for three hours,” Shafiei told The Associated Press. He added that he was hopeful “Shourd will go home within the next two to three days.”

He said the Swiss Embassy in Tehran is making arrangements for the $500,000 bail payment for Shourd. The Swiss Embassy represents U.S. interests in Iran because the two countries do not have direct diplomatic relations.

It was not immediately clear whether such a bail payment would violate U.S. trade sanctions or whether a special waiver would be required.

Shourd, who has been held in solitary confinement, was to have been released Saturday as an act of clemency to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan after the intervention of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But the judiciary abruptly halted that planned release, indicating such a decision would have to first go through the courts.

Iran has accused the three Americans of illegally crossing the border and spying in a case that has deepened tensions with Washington — which has led the push for tougher sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

Their families say the Americans were hiking in Iraq’s scenic north and that if they crossed the border, they did so unwittingly.

The prosecutor said the two other Americans would remain in custody.

The prosecution’s case against the three is nearly complete and a judge has issued indictments for all three on charges of spying, he said.

“The suspects did not confess but we have enough reasons in hand for their spying charges,” Dowlatabadi said.

The prosecutor rejected any link between the decision to grant Shourd bail and the return to Iran in July of nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri. Iran had accused the U.S. of abducting Amiri, while Washington said he was a willing defector who later changed his mind.

In the past, Ahmadinejad has suggested the three Americans could be traded for Iranians claimed to be held by the U.S.

The judiciary appeared to be using the issue of Shourd’s release to flex its muscles in an internal political tussle with President Ahmadinejad. On Friday, the Foreign Ministry had announced that plans for her release on Saturday were the result of Ahmadinejad’s personal intervention and reflected the “special viewpoint of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the dignity of women.”

Hours later, judiciary officials said the release was off — an embarrassing rebuke to Ahmadinejad. On Saturday, Dowlatabadi emphasized that any announcement about the American’s release “would only come through the judiciary system.”

The mixed signals point to one of the main fissures in Iran’s conservative leadership: Ahmadinejad and his allies against conservative rivals in the powerful judiciary overseen by Iran’s supreme leader.

At times, Iran has also sought to exploit the propaganda value of holding the three Americans.

In May, for example, Iran allowed the mothers of the three detainees to visit them, releasing them temporarily from Tehran’s Evin prison for an emotional reunion at a hotel.

The elaborate event received extensive coverage on the government’s main English-language broadcast arm.

In the past year, Iranian authorities have allowed bail or converted jail sentences to fines for two other high-profile detainees.

In May, French academic Clotilde Reiss was freed after her 10-year sentence on espionage-related charges was commuted to a fine equivalent to $300,000.

Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari of Newsweek was freed on $300,000 bail in October 2009 after nearly four months detention following the crackdown after the country’s disputed presidential election. He was later sentenced in absentia to more than 13 years in prison and 50 lashes.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
Canada set to receive 1M Pfizer-BioNTech doses, Moderna playing catch-up

OTTAWA — The federal government is expecting Moderna to make good on… Continue reading

This satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. shows Iran's Natanz nuclear facility on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Iran's Natanz nuclear site suffered a problem Sunday, April 11, involving its electrical distribution grid just hours after starting up new advanced centrifuges that more quickly enrich uranium, state TV reported. It was the latest incident to strike one of Tehran's most-secured sites amid negotiations over the tattered atomic accord with world powers. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)
Iran blames Israel for sabotage at Natanz nuclear site

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran blamed Israel on Monday for a… Continue reading

Map of Syria. Turkey is to the north. (File photo)
Investigation finds Syria likely behind 2018 chlorine attack

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — An investigation by the global chemical weapons watchdog… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and his sister Melodie pose for a photo at the Mirror restaurant. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Alberta Health Services delivers ‘closure order’ to Mirror restaurant

Alberta Health Services says it has delivered a closure order to a… Continue reading

Ron Howard is photographed at the "Inferno" film premiere on Oct. 25, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Buckner/Rex Shutterstock/Zuma Press/TNS)
Brothers Ron and Clint Howard have memoir coming in October

NEW YORK — Filmmaker-actor Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard, brothers, former… Continue reading

FILE - In this Saturday, March 27, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall plays against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Boston. The Buffalo Sabres could trade 2018 MVP Hall, who signed for just this season and is a pending free agent. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Boston Bruins acquire Taylor Hall to kick off NHL trade deadline day

Trade deadline day in the NHL has started with the Boston Bruins… Continue reading

The Huawei logo displayed at the main office of Chinese tech giant Huawei in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Poland’s Internal Security Agency has charged a Chinese manager at Huawei in Poland and one of its own former officers with espionage against Poland on behalf of China. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Huawei, HSBC agree on document deal for extradition case

HONG KONG — Chinese telecommunications equipment firm Huawei said Monday that it… Continue reading

The Montreal Police logo is seen on a police car in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

MONTREAL — Hundreds of protestors gathered in Montreal on Sunday in defiance… Continue reading

Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta… Continue reading

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian special forces supported major Iraqi military assault on ISIL last month

OTTAWA — Some Canadian soldiers supported a major military offensive last month… Continue reading

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Most Read