Iran to release one US hiker on bail

The
Iranian authorities are ready to release one of the three US hikers detained
last year, state media report.

Tehran
chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi said Sarah Shourd, 32, would be freed
when $500,000 (£325,000) bail was paid, and could leave the country.

Mr
Jafari-Dolatabadi had blocked a plan backed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to
release her as a good-will gesture.

Ms
Shourd and two men, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, were detained near Iran’s
border with Iraq on 31 July 2009.

Their
families say they crossed the poorly-demarcated border by mistake while hiking
in the mountainous northern Iraqi region of Khormal.

Officials
in Tehran said they had “suspicious aims” and that they intended to
put them on trial for espionage. But they are still being held without charge
more than a year later at Evin prison in Tehran.

US
officials have said the three – all graduates of the University of California,
Berkeley – are completely innocent.

After
seeing her in May, Ms Shourd’s mother said she was being denied treatment for
serious health problems, including a lump in her breast and precancerous
cervical cells.

The
three friends were all said to be undernourished and depressed after more than
a year in virtual solitary confinement.

Indictment ‘ready’

At a
news conference in the Iranian capital on Sunday, Mr Jafari-Dolatabadi
announced that he was prepared to release Ms Shourd.

“Based
on reports and the approval of the relevant judge about the sickness of Ms
Shourd, her detention was converted to $500,000, and if the bail is deposited
she can be released,” he told reporters.

“She
is not barred from leaving Iran,” he added. “The other two detained
American hikers will remain in jail.”

The
chief prosecutor said Ms Shourd’s lawyer had been informed.

The BBC’s
Middle East correspondent, Jon Leyne, says a number of people facing trial in
Iran have taken the option of leaving the country and forfeiting their bail,
rather than risk facing a long prison term.

Mr
Jafari-Dolatabadi said an indictment against the three Americans had been
issued and that their cases were ready to be submitted to a court.

There
were “enough reasons to accuse the three of espionage”, he said.
Under Iranian law, it is an offence that can be punishable by death.

“It
has been proven that they illegally entered through the border of Kordestan
[province]. Also the equipment and supplies they were carrying are only used
for spying,” Mr Jafari-Dolatabadi was quoted by the Mehr news agency as
saying.

The
announcement came a day after Mr Jafari-Dolatabadi said he had objected to a
plan announced by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to release Ms Shourd at the end
of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan because legal procedures had “not
been completed”.

Reporters
had been invited to a hotel in Tehran to witness her release on Saturday before
it was announced that it had been postponed.

Our
correspondent says that with all the recent twists and turns in this case, and
the unpredictable mood of the Iranian authorities, Ms Shourd’s family will be
wary of getting excited about this latest offer.

0
0

NO COMMENTS