Iran to release US hiker Sarah Shourd once $500,000 bail is deposited

US hiker Sarah Shourd, one of three American hikers detained in Iran for more than a year on espionage charges, will be released as soon as $500,000 bail is deposited, a top Iran prosecutor said Sunday.

In this May 20, 2010 file photo, American hikers Shane Bauer, left, Sarah Shourd, center, and Josh Fattal, sit at the Esteghlal Hotel in Tehran, Iran.

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Iran said on Sunday – for a second time – that it is ready to release one of the three US hikers who have been detained for more than a year in the Islamic Republic on espionage charges.

Sarah Shourd, the US spy, can be released on bail of $500,000,” Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi was quoted in Iran’s state-run Fars news agency as saying on Sunday, reports Bloomberg.

"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," Jafari-Dolatabadi was quoted in the official IRNA news agency, according to Al Jazeera.

Iran had first announced on Thursday that Shourd, the only woman in the group of the three detained US hikers, would be released on Saturday, but then canceled the announcement on Friday, saying that her legal issues were not yet resolved, CNN reports.

The charges against her fellow two male hikers still stand, according to Iran’s Press TV.

News of Shourd's impending release comes as Iran is responding to mounting international criticism on many issues and a fresh round of sanctions for its nuclear program.

Its first announcement last week that it would release Shourd came a day after Iran backed down from widely-publicized plans to stone a women convicted of adultery. European leaders called the plans “barbaric beyond words,” as the Christian Science Monitor reported.

The three Americans were first detained in July of 2009, when they were hiking near the Iran-Iraq border and Iranian authorities said they had crossed into their territory, though that is now disputed, as the Christian Science Monitor reported:

The US news magazine The Nation in June cited Iraqi eyewitness accounts stating that Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Josh Fattal were arrested on the Iraqi side of the poorly marked border by Iranian guards who briefly crossed a few yards into Iraq to pick them up. It reported that the man likely responsible for their arrest – the head of the Revolutionary Guard intelligence for the region – has since been imprisoned for a string of kidnappings and murders.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, had first said on Thursday that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was personally pursuing Shourd's release, according to the Tehran Times, which added that the spokesman said the decision to allow her bail was because “Eid al-Fitr [the Islamic holiday ] is upon us.”

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