AFP: The American hiker freed by Iran left for home on Saturday from the Gulf state of Oman which mediated in her release, asking people to pray for her two colleagues still being held by the Islamic republic.
By Mohammad Bellouchi
MUSCAT (AFP) — The American hiker freed by Iran left for home on Saturday from the Gulf state of Oman which mediated in her release, asking people to pray for her two colleagues still being held by the Islamic republic.
“I thank the good, hospitable people of Oman for your support and ask you to please extend your prayers for the freedom of my fiance Shane Bauer and friend Josh Fattal,” Sarah Shourd said at Muscat airport before boarding a flight to Dubai, accompanied by her mother Nora.
“Inshallah (God willing) they will soon be free,” said the 32-year-old, who was wearing a white top and black trousers. “I hope to visit the Sultanate of Oman in the near future with my two companions Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal.”
Shourd thanked Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said “for hosting me,” and his special envoy to Iran Salim al-Ismaili “who met with my two companions in Tehran and brought me back from Iran.”
She was released on Tuesday after being held along with her fellow hikers for more than a year. All three were arrested on July 31, 2009 after straying into Iran from Iraq.
The authorities charged the three with “spying and illegally entering the country,” but they said they entered Iran by mistake after getting lost in Iraqi Kurdistan.
“I will always associate your country with my first breath of freedom, the sweet smell of sandalwood and the chance to stand by the ocean and listen to the waves,” Shourd said as she prepared to leave Oman.
She was released after bail of around 500,000 dollars was paid. Both Iran’s hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have said Oman played a role in securing her release.
Omani Foreign Minister Yussef bin Alawi bin Abdullah told CNN by telephone on Friday that talks over Shourd’s release were delayed “due to the White House administration,” the network’s website reported.
“The White House was confused because it was working on several different tracks at the same time,” CNN said, quoting Abdullah.
US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters on Friday that Clinton telephoned Sultan Qaboos to thank him for Oman’s role in securing Shourd’s release.
“And they agreed to stay engaged and to work cooperatively to do everything possible to bring about the release of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal,” he said.
While Clinton urged Iran to free Shourd’s two companions, Ahmadinejad said he hoped Washington would now release Iranians it is holding.
Iranian media reports have said the United States is holding around a dozen Iranians, some of them detained in other countries at US request.
“The Islamic republic did this unilateral, humanitarian act. We hope that they appreciate the Islamic republic’s deed and do something humanitarian,” Ahmadinejad said.
Shourd’s mother told AFP last month her daughter was being held in solitary confinement in Evin prison despite suffering from a pre-cancerous cervical condition, a lump in her breast and depression.
Shourd will hold a news conference at a New York hotel on Sunday afternoon, her family said.