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Freed US Hiker Pleads for Iran to Release Her Detained Friends

  • Victoria Cavaliere

An American woman who was held in Iran for more than 13 months and was accused of spying for the United States has returned home after being set free last week on what Tehran call "humanitarian grounds." Sarah Shourd held a press conference in New York City on Sunday, where she said she feels "only one-third free" as her fiancé and a friend remain imprisoned in Iran.

Sarah Shourd says she is grateful to be free after her long ordeal, but that the disappointment of leaving prison without her companions was "crushing."

Shourd, her fiancé Shane Bauer and their friend Josh Fattal were detained in July, 2009, while hiking along the Iran-Iraq border. Iran says the three crossed the border and charged them with spying. Bauer and Fattal could be tried for espionage and a court case might proceed in absentia for Shourd.

The 32-year-old Shourd, who was living and working in Syria at the time of her arrest, strongly denied any wrongdoing. "Shane and Josh do not deserve to be in prison one day longer than I was. 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 detention and prolonged imprisonment," she said.

Shourd was freed last week after officials in Oman helped arrange payment of $500,000 in bail. U.S. officials say the payment did not violate sanctions against Iran.

Shourd, who reportedly was suffering health problems while in prison, says doctors in Oman gave her a clean bill of health. She pleaded for the international community to continue to pressure Tehran for her friends' release. "This is not the time to celebrate. My disappointment at not sharing this with Shane and Josh was crushing. And I stand before you today only one-third free," she said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is due in New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly debate, has downplayed suggestions that Bauer and Fattal be released. Speaking to ABC television's "This Week" program, the Iranian president said the "law" would determine who will remain in prison in his country.

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