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Iran

Iran says it will release US hiker on bail

Laura Fattal, Cindy Hickey and Nora Shourd, mothers of the three detainees protesting in New York, 30 July 2010
Laura Fattal, Cindy Hickey and Nora Shourd, mothers of the three detainees protesting in New York, 30 July 2010 AFP

Iran will release US hiker Sarah Shourd on bail after a judge confirmed she was ill, a senior prosecutor said on Sunday. Her case has revealed divisions between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government and the judiciary.

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Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said Shourd, 32, had been set bail of 500,000 dollars on health grounds.

She has been kept in detention in the Islamic Republic for more than a year, along with fellow US hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal.

They were arrested on suspicions of espionage after they allegedly crossed the border into Iran from Iraq.

Her release, initially expected on Saturday, was delayed because of legal technicalities.

The hikers’ lawyer, Masoud Shafii, said the period of detention for Bauer and Fattal had been extended by two months, with no trial date set.

The three hikers previously rejected all charges, insisting they entered Iran by mistake after getting lost during a trek in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Shourd's mother Nora had said last month her daughter was being held in solitary confinement despite suffering from a pre-cancerous cervical condition, a lump in her breast and depression.

White House adviser David Axelrod remained cautious as to whether or not Shourd would be freed, and declined to comment on the fate of Bauer and Fattal.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said, meanwhile, that US diplomats were working to bring all three hikers home.

The case has highlighted deep divisions between Ahmadinejad's government and conservative-run institutions like the judiciary.

On Sunday, Dolatabadi criticised the government directly, saying "releasing information on judicial cases should not be done by government officials".

Prominent conservative lawmaker Ahmad Tavakoli accused Ahmadinejad of pushing for Shourd's release, while Dolatabadi maintained that the hikers illegally entered through the Kurdistan border with equipment and supplies that could only be used for spying purposes.

President Barack Obama, and human rights groups have called on Iran to release the three hikers.

Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture, appealed to Tehran to end the solitary confinement of Shourd.

In May, Iran allowed visits to the three detainees by their mothers, who reported Shourd and Bauer had become engaged while behind bars.

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