Iran's Release of American Hiker Has Questionable Motives
American hiker Sarah Shourd was released Tuesday from an Iranian prison and is on her way home thirteen months after being taken into custody by Iranian border guards and accused of espionage.
In what has been described as a goodwill gesture, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arranged for her release in accordance with the culture and Islamic affairs ministry.
Shroud was hiking in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan with her fiancé, Shane Bauer, and friend, Josh Fattal, when the trio were accused of illegally crossing into Iranian territory and detained.
Bauer and Fattal are expected to be held for at least another two months.
Experts are skeptical about the terms of Shourd’s release. Iran has been hit with stiff sanctions by the United Nations, United States and European Union, possibly lending pressure to release the hikers. Ahmadinejad is heading to a United Nations meeting next week, and some are saying he wants to look like the “good guy.”
There has also been an internal power struggle operating behind closed doors in Iran’s government. Shourd’s release was called off by the Iran’s judiciary, but Ahmadinejad reversed that decision.
According to Massoumeh Torfeh, an Iran specialist at the University of London, “Ahmadinejad does interfere in the work [of the judiciary and parliament]. He comes and announces this woman will be released, and it’s not his job to do that.”
Questions have also arisen surrounding Shourd’s bail. The Iranian government asked for $500,000, which the United States government said it wouldn’t pay. Her family said they didn’t have the funds.
However, the Iranian government has confirmed that Shroud’s bail has been received, despite statements from the U.S. government and Shroud’s family that they were not responsible for the payment.
“She can leave Iran if she wants to,” said Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi. He would only say that “representatives” paid Shroud’s bail.
While Shroud has been released, her two companions remain behind bars in Iran. Some feel that the Iranian government is keeping them to use as bargaining tools in the future.
“I’m sure [Bauer and Fattal] will only be released when we see some other gestures from the West, from America in fact,” said Torfeh.
Reach Reporter Brooke Matthews here.