UPDATE 1930 GMT: A CNN journalist claims, "Senior US source says Oman paid Iran bail for US hiker Sarah Shourd. Shourd flew from Iran to Oman, who has been working issue for some time."
UPDATE 1800 GMT: Before she flew out of Tehran's Mehrabad Airport, Sarah Shourd told Press TV, "I want to really offer my thanks to everyone in the world, all of the governments, all of the people, that have been involved, and especially, particularly want to address President Ahmadinejad and all of the Iranian officials, the religious leaders, and thank them for this humanitarian gesture. I'm grateful and I'm very humbled by this moment."
UPDATE 1630 GMT: The families of the three US hikers who were detained in July 2009 --- Sarah Shourd, Shane Fattal, and Josh Bauer --- have issued a 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. We applaud the Iranian authorities for showing compassion in Sarah’s case and again call on them to do the only right thing and release Shane and Josh immediately. Shane, Sarah and Josh are all innocent. They were traveling together, and were arrested together. We’re certain that Shane and Josh share our great happiness that Sarah is finally coming home. They deserve to come home too. Iran has no grounds to deprive them of their liberty a moment longer. We extend our deepest gratitude to the countless people around the world – friends, supporters and many persons of goodwill – who have worked so hard for so long to try to obtain the release of Shane, Sarah and Josh. The work is not over and, as we prepare to welcome Sarah home, we will not rest until Shane and Josh are home too.
Nora Shourd, Sarah Shourd’s mother, added:
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. 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. Sarah is incredibly strong but without Shane and Josh there to support her, and their brief daily meetings in the yard of Evin Prison, I am not sure how she would have coped. I can only imagine how bittersweet her freedom must be for her, leaving Shane and Josh behind. I owe it to all of them, to Sarah, Shane and Josh, to keep pressing until they are all home free. I urgently appeal to Iran not to delay granting Shane and Josh’s families the same joy and relief that I now have in knowing Sarah is finally free.
UPDATE 1540 GMT: The Swiss Ambassador to Iran has told CNN that Sarah Shourd has left Iran, flying to Muscat in Oman on a chartered plane.
UPDATE 1415 GMT: Some confusion over the procedure that led to Shourd's handover to the Swiss Embassy. CNN quotes Tehran Prosecutor Doulatabadi, from state-run television, that Shourd's "representatives" paid the $500,000 bail to an Iranian bank in Oman.
UPDATE 1305 GMT: Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi has just told Press TV that bail was offered for Shourd, upon a review of the files of all three US hikers, because of "her situation", an apparent reference to her poor health.
Doulatabadi said Shourd was "free to leave Iran if she wants to".
Regarding the cases of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, Doulatabadi said the files were now with the Revolutionary Court for its consideration. He did not specify any charges against the two, even though this weekend he had claimed these were imminent.
After days of twists and turns, US citizen Sarah Shourd has been released from Evin Prison on a bail of $500,000, 14 months after she was arrested with Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal as they hiked along the Iran-Iraq border.
The Tehran Prosector General's office announced that Shourd was handed over to officials of the Swiss embassy, which represents US interests: "The case inspector informed the Tehran prosecutor of a bank guarantee concerning the posting of bail and after the prosecutor's agreement, he issued the order for her freedom."
Shourd's release following four days of political twists and turns as the initial plans by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a grand ceremony freeing her were vetoed by Iran's judiciary. The subsequent compromise of a handover to Swiss officials, after the payment of $500,000, ran into reported trouble yesterday because of difficulties raising the money.
The official statement from the proseuctor's office indicates that no money actually hands but only that "guarantees" were given for payment. This arrangement --- another possible compromise between the judiciary and the office of Ahmadinejad, who eagerly wanted Shourd's release before his visit to New York and the United Nations at the end of the month --- appears to have broken the financial statemate over the freeing of the American.
The prosecutor also declares the formality that the arrest of Bauer, who is Shourd's finance, and Fattal has been extended for a further two months and that their appearances in court shall continue.