Iran to release female hiker after 13 months

This undated photo released by freethehikers.org, on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009, shows missing American hiker Sarah Shourd.
September 9, 2010 5:45:38 PM PDT
Iran says it will free UC Berkeley graduate Sarah Shourd over the weekend after more than 13 months in prison. There is no word on the fate of Shourd's fiancé, Shane Bauer, and their friend, Josh Fattall.

As it stands now, the Iranian government has said they will release Shourd Saturday morning in Iran -- late Friday night in the Bay Area. Her friends say they will not rest easy until they see Shourd set free.

"I'm still kind of holding my breath," Liam O'Donoghue said.

O'Donoghue is a friend of Shourd and Bauer. He is hopeful reports Shourd will be released Saturday morning in Iran are true.

"I can't wait to see Sarah, I can't wait to see all of them come home, but it's going to be hard to believe until I'm really kind of giving them a hug and see them back in the United States," he said.

Shourd, Bauer and their friend Fattal have been held since July 2009. They were arrested while hiking along the Iraqi border.

In May, the hikers' mothers were allowed to visit them at the same hotel in Tehran where Shourd is set to be released.

Thursday, the mothers said in a statement, "Shane, Sarah and josh are all innocent and we continue to call for their immediate release, so that they can return home together and be reunited with our families."

Until now, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has maintained that the three UC Berkeley graduates should stand trial.

"I frankly found him more pathetic than evil," University of San Francisco professor Stephen Zunes said.

Zunes met Ahmadinejad in 2007. He does not think the president alone made the decision to release Shourd.

"The thing about Iran is that it is not a classic dictatorship; it's not like Ahmadinejad or any single figure runs things, it's a constant battle between various factions for influence," Zunes said.

According to her family and friends, Shourd has been ill and depressed and she has found a lump in her breast.

"With the news about Sarah maybe having breast cancer, it really became a life and death issue," O'Donoghue said.

"We hope that the Iranian government is serious about releasing them to mark the end of Ramadan to do a good will gesture and hopefully it means the other two hikers will be coming home soon," friend Aimee Allison said.

While Iran has gone on record as saying it plans to release Shourd, political experts say there is good reason for caution. The situation in Iran is very complicated and fluid and if one faction or another wants the release called off in the next 24 hours it could derail the whole thing.


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