Iran has released one of the three American hikers detained in the country since July 2009. Before departing Tehran on Tuesday on a flight bound for Oman, Sarah Shourd offered her thanks to those who worked for her freedom. Meanwhile, U.S. officials stress that the cases of Shourd's two detained companions remain unresolved.
Before she boarded an Omani airplane to depart the country where she had been held for the past 14 months, Shourd appeared on Iran's Press TV. With a burgundy colored scarf pulled over her dark hair, Shourd looked directly into the camera.
"I want to really offer my thanks to everyone in the world, all of the governments, all of the people that have been involved, and I especially particularly want to address [Iranian] President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and all of the Iranian officials, the religious leaders, and thank them for this humanitarian gesture," said Shourd. "I am grateful and I am very humbled by this moment."
Iran cited medical reasons, and Shourd's family says she needs treatment for a breast lump and pre-cancerous cervical cells.
Swiss and Omani diplomats were working with Tehran to obtain Shourd's freedom, as the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran.
Back in Washington Tuesday afternoon, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley echoed the statements of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by welcoming Shourd's release and calling attention to those still in captivity.
"We are very gratified that we received confirmation a few minutes ago that Sarah Shourd has departed Tehran en route to Muscat, Oman," said Crowley. "You've seen the statements by the president and secretary celebrating her release, but also recognizing that the cases of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal remain unresolved. We are grateful for the efforts of Swiss, Omani and other diplomats who have worked diligently over many months to help us reach this point."
The trio was detained more than a year ago after apparently straying across the unmarked border between northern Iraq and Iran. The U.S. has repeatedly said the three are hikers who committed no crime.
Iranian state media report Shourd was freed on $500,000 bail. As Shourd flew to meet her mother in Oman, State Department spokesman Crowley said he did not yet know specific details of the negotiations that led to Shourd's freedom.
"The United States did not pay anything for her release. As you know, the government of Iran through their judicial process had specific requirements for her release, and arrangements were made that satisfied those requirements," said Crowley.
Iran released two other high-profile detainees within the past year after they reportedly paid about $300,000 each.
In May, Clotilde Reiss, a French academic accused of spying, was released after her 10-year jail sentence was commuted to a fine. France had repeatedly rejected the charges against her. In addition, last October, Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian journalist who had been detained in the post-election crackdown, was released from an Iranian prison after posting bail.
The United States is among the nations that have strict sanctions in place against financial transactions with Iran. The State Department had said that payment of bail money would not necessarily violate sanctions or require a waiver or special exemption.