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Released American hiker arrives in Oman

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Bittersweet release for Sarah Shourd
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sarah Shourd thanks Ahmadinejad for "humanitarian gesture"
  • "I cannot wait to wrap Sarah in my arms," says her mother
  • Two other American hikers remain jailed in Iran
  • State-run media reports that the $500,000 bail was paid in Oman

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- A jubilant American Sarah Shourd reunited with her mother in Muscat, Oman, on Tuesday after Iranian authorities released her from a Tehran prison where she had been held for 14 months.

Shourd arrived in Oman -- where her bail was posted -- on a 2.5-hour, chartered flight from Tehran. Her bail was posted by Omani sources, a senior Obama administration official said.

"I've been waiting for this moment for a really long time, and I'm extremely grateful to be standing here," she told reporters upon her arrival at the airport. "I want to begin by giving my deepest thanks to the sultan of Oman, Sultan Qaboos."

Shourd thanked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, Iran's supreme leader, and "everyone who has been a part of making this moment happen for me and for my family."

Shourd, 32, left behind fellow Americans Shane Bauer, 28, who is her fiance, and their friend, Josh Fattal, 28.

The three Americans were detained after they allegedly strayed across an unmarked border into Iran while hiking in Iraq's Kurdistan region. Iran accused the three of spying, a charge the United States and the hikers have denied.

Shourd said she would focus her efforts on securing their release. "I can't enjoy my freedom without them," she said. "They should be standing here with me. They don't deserve to be in prison a minute longer than I do."

Video: Life after release
Video: U.S.: Release other hikers
Video: Freed hiker thanks Ahmadinejad
Video: Detained hiker finally free

Prior to departing Tehran, she told reporters, "I just want to assure you that my commitment to truth will not change when I go back to my country and I will never say anything but the truth to the media, and I will not succumb to any pressure."

Shourd's lawyer, Masoud Shafii, said bail had been posted and that he was with Shourd when she was released late in the afternoon from Evin Prison and handed over to Swiss authorities. The United States and Iran do not have formal relations, and Switzerland serves as the "protecting power" for Washington in Tehran.

Shourd left prison wearing a red head scarf and without carrying any belongings.

"I've hoped and prayed for this moment for 410 days, and I cannot wait to wrap Sarah in my arms and hold her close when we are finally together again," Shourd's mother, Nora, said in a statement.

"Sarah has had a long and difficult detainment and I am going to make sure that she now gets the care and attention she needs and the time and space to recover," she said.

U.S. President Barack Obama thanked authorities in Switzerland, Oman and everyone else who "worked tirelessly and admirably over the past several months to bring about this joyous reunion."

Obama urged Iran to release Bauer and Fattal as well.

"While Sarah has been released, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal remain prisoners in Iran who have committed no crime," Obama said. "We remain hopeful that Iran will demonstrate renewed compassion by ensuring the return of Shane, Josh and all the other missing or detained Americans in Iran."

RELATED TOPICS
  • Sarah Shourd
  • Iran

The families echoed the president's sentiments in their statement.

"All of our families are relieved and overjoyed that Sarah has at last been released, but we're also heartbroken that Shane and Josh are still being denied their freedom for no just cause," they said Tuesday. "The work is not over, and as we prepare to welcome Sarah home, we will not rest until Shane and Josh are home too."

Iranian prison officials who processed Shourd's release gathered to say goodbye to her and wish her well, Shafii said. One official told her he hoped never to see her again in the notorious prison.

Her bail was posted in Muscat, according to Iranian state-run media. It had been set at $500,000. In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the United States "did not pay anything for her release."

Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told Iran's Press TV that Shourd's "representatives" paid her bail to an Iranian bank in Muscat, after which a judge ordered her release.

Dolatabadi said Tuesday that Bauer and Fattal will remain in jail until their trial. The official Islamic Republic News Agency reported that the detention for the two Americans had been extended by two months.

A judge allowed Shourd to be released on bail because of her medical condition, IRNA said Sunday, citing Dolatabadi. Shourd had a pre-existing gynecological problem, and her family says she now also has a lump in her breast, according to Shafii.

Iranian officials had apparently changed their stance on Shourd's release several times since last week. Iranian officials announced Thursday that Shourd would be released on Saturday at the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. But state media announced Friday that the release had been called off because legal procedures had not been resolved.

Some analysts said it is no coincidence that Shourd's release comes as Ahmadinejad prepares to attend this month's U.N. General Assembly meeting.

"I think President Ahmadinejad really wanted to use this as a way of building up a store of goodwill just before he comes to New York," said Gary Sick, a professor at Columbia University and a former National Security Council Iran analyst.

CNN's Nic Robertson, Reza Sayah, Shirzad Bozorgmehr, Mary Snow and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

 
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