US & Canada

Freed US hiker vows to help friends still held by Iran

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Media captionSarah Shourd, speaking on Iran's Press TV: "I feel humbled and grateful"

A US hiker, freed after spending more than a year in jail in Iran, has promised to lobby for the release of the two men she was arrested with.

Sarah Shourd, who was flown to Oman, urged Iran to free her fiance Shane Bauer and friend Josh Fattal.

All three were arrested near the Iran-Iraq border last year and accused of spying. The two men still face trial.

US President Barack Obama renewed his call for the pair's release, saying they had done nothing wrong.

"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," Mr Obama said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also urged the release of the men, telling the Associated Press news agency he "appreciated the flexibility" of the Iranian government.

But Tehran's chief prosecutor Jafari Dolatabadi was quoted as saying that the two men's detention had been extended by two months.

"Therefore there is no talk of the release of the two," Iran's English language Press TV quoted him as saying.

Battle of elites

The three Americans deny spying, saying they accidentally strayed into Iranian territory while on a hike in Iraq when they were arrested on 31 July 2009.

Their families say they have been kept in solitary confinement, and Ms Shourd's mother Nora, who was reunited with her daughter in Oman, has said she was being denied treatment for potentially serious health issues.

Image caption The Americans' cases may be entangled in a power struggle among Iran's leaders

Speaking before she left Iran, Ms Shourd described her release as a "huge relief" and thanked "every country, every official and individual" involved in the process.

"I feel myself I have a huge debt to repay the world for what it's done for me," she said.

"My first priority is to help my fiance Shane Bauer and my friend Josh Fattal to gain their freedom because they don't deserve to be in prison any more.

"And even when that's finished I feel like my work has just begun repaying the world for what it's done for me."

US officials said Ms Shourd, 32, would be spending at least a day in Oman, but gave no details of her future plans.

The Iranian authorities said a bail of $500,000 (£325,000) had been posted, but it is unclear who paid, with US officials denying they had handed over any money.

Analysts say the Americans appear to have been caught up in a power struggle among Iranian elites.

While Ms Shourd's release was initially proposed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the country's powerful judges delayed the release and stamped their authority by demanding a huge bail payment.

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