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Iran frees detained US woman on $500,000 bail

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran released an American woman on a bail of $500,000 Tuesday more than a year after she was detained, but authorities said they were not considering the immediate release of two companions arrested with her.

The announcement came days after conflicting statements by Iranian authorities on whether Sarah Shourd would be freed as the process was complicated by political feuds among the leadership and questions over how a payment could be made for her freedom without violating international sanctions.

The English-language Press TV reported that Shourd, 32, had been released “on a bail of $500,000” but did not give more details. Iran’s judiciary, meanwhile, issued a statement saying the “pretrial detention” of the two American men — Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal — has been extended for two more months.

Her family had said it was having difficulty raising the money. However, Tehran’s chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi said later that the bail had been paid to an Iranian bank in Muscat, Oman.

“The judge issued the release order and Ms. Shourd was simply set free and she can leave Iran if she wants to,” he told Press TV. He said the cases of the two American men, both 28, will be sent to the revolutionary court and “there is no talk of releasing those two right now.”

Shourd’s lawyer, Masoud Shafiei, said she had been released but was still undergoing formalities inside the Evin Prison, where she has been held in solitary confinement. He said he had no information about her departure route or any details about bail.

He later was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as saying Shourd planned to travel to Oman where her mother already was waiting for her, but that could not be confirmed and there were conflicting reports that she would go to the Qatari capital of Doha.

A spokesman for the Swiss Foreign Ministry, Lars Knuchel said the release had not been formally confirmed but “we are very confident that things are moving into the right direction.”

The U.S. broke off ties with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and Switzerland handles U.S. interests in Iran.

Shourd and her two friends were detained along the Iran-Iraq border on July 31, 2009 and accused of illegally crossing the border and spying in a case that has deepened tensions with Washington. Their families say they were hiking in Iraq’s scenic north, and that if they crossed the border, they did so unwittingly.

The stage was set for Shourd’s release last week when Ahmadinejad said he intervened as a gesture of Islamic compassion at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. However, the judiciary quickly humbled the president by saying it was in charge of the case and would set the rules — in the form of the largest known bail for any high-profile Westerner jailed in the past year.

Shortly after judicial officials announced the bail on Sunday, Shourd’s lawyer predicted she could walk free in “two or three days.”

Shourd’s mother says she has serious medical problems, including a breast lump and precancerous cervical cells.

Moves to release Shourd have been accompanied by political jockeying in Iran between Ahmadinejad and his more conservative rivals.

Nora Shourd’s phone message box was full when the AP tried reaching her for comment. A New York publicist working with the families, Samantha Topping, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. A message on the cell phone of Cindy Hickey, mother of Shane Bauer, referred calls to Topping.


Associated Press Writer Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee contributed to this report

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