Sunday 22 April 2018

US woman freed by Iran denies spying

But fiance and friend still detained in notorious Tehran prison

Karen Matthews in New York

An American woman who was held in Iran for more than 13 months and accused of espionage insisted last night she and two men detained with her never spied or committed any crime.

She said their arrest was "a huge misunderstanding".

Sarah Shourd underscored her gratitude at being released but said she felt only "one-third free" because her fiance Shane Bauer and their friend Josh Fattal remain in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison.

"This is not the time to celebrate," Ms Shourd (32) said in New York. "The only thing that enabled me to cross the gulf from prison to freedom alone was the knowledge that Shane and Josh wanted with all their hearts for my suffering to end."

Ms Shourd travelled to New York after arriving yesterday morning at Dulles International Airport near Washington.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in New York yesterday to attend the UN General Assembly.Mr Ahmadinejad called Ms Shourd's release "a huge humanitarian gesture". He called on the US to release eight Iranians being detained.

Ms Shourd thanked Iranians and Mr Ahmadinejad in a carefully scripted return that spoke to the continuing delicacy of her situation. Iran has issued espionage-related indictments against her, Mr Bauer and Mr Fattal; the indictments could bring trials for the two men and proceedings in absentia for Ms Shourd. But she stressed their innocence in a case that has added to tensions between the US and Iran.

The three were detained in July 2009 after Iranian officials said they intentionally crossed the country's border from Iraq.

Ms Shourd said yesterday the three had been hiking near a waterfall in Iraq's Kurdistan region -- and had no idea the border was nearby. .

"We committed no crime and we are not spies. We in no way intended any harm to the Iranian government or its people and believe a huge misunderstanding led to our arrest and prolonged detention."

Irish Independent

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