Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

We aren't spies, says freed hiker

An American woman held in Iran for more than a year has denied that she and two men detained with her were spies.

She called their arrest "a huge misunderstanding".

Speaking in New York on Sunday after returning following her release last week, Sarah Shourd said she felt only "one-third free" because her fiance, Shane Bauer, and their friend Josh Fattal remain in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison.

"This is not the time to celebrate," said Shourd, 32. "The only thing that enabled me to cross the gulf from prison to freedom alone was the knowledge that Shane and Josh wanted with all their hearts for my suffering to end."

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who arrived in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, said: "We're very glad that that lady was released. (Due) to the humanitarian perspective the Islamic Republic chose to adopt on the subject, she was released on bail. And we hope that the other two will soon be able to prove and provide evidence to the court that they had no ill intention in crossing the border, so that their release can also be secured."

Tying the case to Iran's claim that some of its citizens are being held unjustly in the United States, he said: "It certainly does not give us joy when we see people in prison, wherever in the world that may be, and even when we think of prisoners here."

Shourd thanked Iranians and Mr Ahmadinejad in a carefully scripted speech but refused to take questions or discuss the conditions in which she'd been held.

Iran has issued espionage-related indictments against her, Bauer and Fattal - the indictments could bring trials for the two men and proceedings in absentia for Shourd.

The three were detained in July 2009 after Iranian officials said they intentionally crossed the country's border from Iraq. Shourd said they had been hiking in a popular tourist area - near a waterfall in Iraq's Kurdistan region - and had no idea the border was nearby.

Officials in Oman mediated a 500,000 dollars (£325,000 ) bail for Shourd that satisfied Iranian authorities and apparently did not violate US economic sanctions against Iran.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph