Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Iranians vow to release American

American hikers Shane Bauer, left, Sarah Shourd, centre, and Josh Fattal (AP)

A senior Iranian prosecutor has said authorities will release a jailed American woman on 500,000 US dollars (£325,722) 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 Ms 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 US dollars bail, and if the bail is deposited, she can be released," the official IRNA news agency quoted Mr Dowlatabadi as saying.

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

The Americans' lawyer, Masoud Shafiei, met with them in the prosecutor's office at the prison and said he provided a final letter of defence in their case. He said it was the first meeting he was allowed with them in person since he was hired by their families to represent them in late 2009.

"All of the three were fine and I was with them for about three hours," Mr Shafiei said. He added that he was hopeful "Shourd will go home within the next two to three days."

He said he has been in contact with the Swiss Embassy in Tehran to make arrangements for the bail payment for Ms Shourd. The Swiss Embassy represents US 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 US trade sanctions or whether a special waiver would be required.

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