Hiker Freed From Iran Denies Espionage Charges - NBC New York

Hiker Freed From Iran Denies Espionage Charges



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    This file photo taken May 20, 2010, shows Sarah Shourd at a hotel in Tehran, Iran.

    An American woman who was held in Iran for more than 13 months says she and two men detained with her never spied or committed any crime. Sarah Shourd says they believe their arrest was based on "a huge misunderstanding.''

    Shourd spoke at a news conference in New York on Sunday after flying back to the U.S. She was freed Tuesday.

    She, her fiance and another man were detained in July 2009 along the Iran-Iraq border. Iran has accused them of espionage.

    The 32-year-old Shourd said in prepared remarks that the three were hiking in a popular tourist area in Iraq and didn't know they were near the border.

    Shourd says she's grateful for her release. But she says she feels only "one-third free'' because her fiance, Shane Bauer, and their friend Josh Fattal are still being held.

    Shourd today again said that the friends were hiking in Kurdistan, and if they crossed the border, they did so accidentally.

    She pleaded for more international help to secure the release of her friends.

    Shourd was freed Tuesday after officials in Oman - an ally of both Iran and the United States - mediated a $500,000 bail.

    Her fiance, Shane Bauer, and their friend Josh Fattal are still being held.

    Before boarding an Oman Air flight at Oman's international airport, Shourd asked supporters to "extend your prayers" to Bauer and Fattal. Shourd, 32, made no mention of her experiences inside Tehran's notorious Evin Prison or any health problems, which her mother has said include a breast lump and precancerous cervical cells.

    She also expressed special gratitude to Oman, which helped secure a bail arrangement that satisfied Iranian authorities and apparently did not violate U.S. economic sanctions against Iran. The source of the bail payment has not been disclosed.

    "I'll always associate your country with the first breath of my freedom, the sweet smell of sandalwood and a chance to stand by the ocean listening to the waves," she said Saturday.

    Earlier in Tehran, Ahmadinejad said he was hopeful the United States would release several Iranians now that Shourd has been freed.

    Ahmadinejad has suggested in the past that the three could be traded for Iranians held in the U.S., raising concerns that the Americans were to be used as bargaining chips as the two countries face off over issues like Iran's disputed nuclear program. In December, Iran released a list of 11 Iranians it says are in U.S. custody.

    Associated Press writer Adam Schreck contributed to this report from Muscat, Oman.