US hiker Sarah Shourd returns to America after more than a year in jail in Iran
US hiker Sarah Shourd's arrival in the US coincides with that of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who says the US should now release Iranians it has detained.
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Sarah Shourd, the detained American hiker released last week on $500,000 bail after nearly 14 months in an Iranian jail, is set to give a news conference this afternoon in New York City on her first day back in the United States. Her remarks will coincide with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s arrival in the city for the United Nations General Assembly.
Ms. Shourd was released on concerns about her health and the need for medical care. Her two fellow hikers, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal – who were also apprehended by Iranian authorities in July of 2009 near the Iran-Iraq border – remain in detention with few signs from Iran that the two men will soon be considered for bail.
Iran has charged them with espionage, with authorities claiming that they had crossed into Iranian territory illegally, though that is now disputed, as The Christian Science Monitor reported.
In an interview with Christiane Amanpour of ABC News, Mr. Ahmadinejad said that the US should release Iranians detained in its own territory:
"They violated the law," he said. "Do you want violators to be released. Is that what you're asking me?"
"It would not be misplaced to ask that the US government should take a humanitarian gesture to release the Iranians who were illegally arrested and detained here in the United States," Ahmadinejad said.
In an earlier interview, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Ms. Amanpour that she is "grateful and appreciative that Sarah was released and want to see not only her two compatriots but other Americans who are held without cause released as well."
Iranian media have reported that the US is holding up to a dozen Iranians, some at the request of other countries, according to Agence France-Presse.
Before she left Iran, Ms. Shourd offered a public statement of gratitude toward Ahmadinejad on Iranian TV, ABC News reported.
"I want to really offer my thanks to everyone in the world, all of the governments, all of the people that have been involved," Shourd said. "And I especially, particularly want to address President Ahmadinejad, and all of the Iranian officials ... and the religious leaders, and thank them for this humanitarian gesture."
Shourd left Oman, which hosted her since Tuesday after her release from Iran and mediated her $500,000 bail. The Arab nation is an ally of both the US and Iran. She gave remarks in Muscat before leaving for Dubai, in a video by Gulf News:
“It would be a pleasure to return to Oman and it is my deepest, deepest hope that I would be able to show Shane and Josh the Grand Mosque soon, one of the most peaceful and powerful places of worship I have ever seen.... I thank the good, hospitable people of Oman for your support and ask you to please, please extend your prayers to my fiancé, Shane, and my friend, Josh. Inshallah, they will soon be free.”
Iran had first announced Sept. 9 that Shourd would be released on bail on Sept. 11, which marked the end of the Islamic holiday Eid, but Iran delayed her actual release for various reasons.
A Newsweek reporter, Maziar Bahari, who was held last year in the same prison as the hikers, told ABC that Shourd likely left Iran with stern warnings: "They tell you what you should do, what you should say, what you shouldn't say," Mr. Bahari said. "The revolutionary guards, they have agents all around the world and they can always harm you."