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American Released From Iranian Prison, 2 More Still Jailed

September 14, 2010 at 6:59 PM EST
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JEFFREY BROWN: Freedom came today for a California woman held in Iran for 410 days. She and two other Americans had been accused of spying. Official word of the release was carried on Press TV, the state-controlled English-language news channel in Iran.

MAN: One of the three American citizens who were detained in Iran, and that one has been freed. And that is Sarah Shourd.

JEFFREY BROWN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his government acted on compassionate grounds. The 32-year-old Shourd had been reported in ill health. She spoke this evening at the airport in Tehran.

SARAH SHOURD, freed American hiker: I want to really offer my thanks to everyone in the world, all of the governments, all of the people that have been involved. And I especially and particularly want to address President Ahmadinejad and all of the Iranian officials and the religious leaders and thank them for this humanitarian gesture. I’m grateful and I’m very humbled by this moment.

JEFFREY BROWN: Shourd was then flown to Oman to be reunited with his mother. Omani and Swiss authorities helped negotiate the release, as the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Iran.

It remained unclear who paid Shourd’s bail of half-a-million dollars. The family said it could not afford that much. And American officials said the U.S. paid nothing for her release. Shourd could still be tried in absentia. Her two companions Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, remain jailed, awaiting trial. In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said they all should have been let go.

P.J. CROWLEY, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Public Affairs: Our view, you know, then, a year ago, and now is that, you know, these three individuals are not guilty of any crime. We understand that Iran needed some time to satisfy itself that they pose no threat to Iran.

JEFFREY BROWN: The three Americans were arrested in July 2009 along the Iran-Iraq border. Their families said they were hiking. Iranian authorities accused them of spying.

Their case was the latest in a series involving Westerners. Retired FBI agent Robert Levinson has been missing in Iran since 2007, his fate unknown. In today’s Wall Street Journal, his daughter Sarah Levinson wrote: “The Iranian government has never delivered the full report of the investigation promised to us three years ago. We have no more information today than when my father disappeared.”

In addition, two journalists, Iranian-American Roxana Saberi and “Newsweek” reporter Maziar Bahari, a Canadian-Iranian, were held for several months last year. And the Washington-based scholar Haleh Esfandiari spent much of 2007 jailed in Iran. She was released after using her mother’s house as bail.