U.S. Government will not pay bail for U.S. hiker imprisoned in Iran, U.S. State Department says

By BNO News

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) – U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley on Monday said that the U.S. Government does not pay for prisoner bail, in regards to the rumored bail set at $500,000 for U.S. hiker Sarah Shourd who was caught and imprisoned, along with two others, in Iran.

“The United States Government does not fund prisoner bail,” Crowley said, answering a question on whether or not any of the $500,000 would come from the U.S. Government. “[We], the U.S. Government, would not be involved in that action if that action were to be taken.” He said that it’s unclear what is happening in Tehran, and that the U.S. State Department does not know if there is a bail at this point. “[The hikers are] still not subject to any formal charges. So we want to see them home and that continues to be our focus at this point,” he said.

P.J. Crowley refused to indicate whether or not a private U.S. citizen paying the bail would breach sanctions set by both the U.S. Government and the international community. “[There] are transactions all the time between Iran and the rest of the world. Some of them violate sanctions, others don’t. But right now, our focus is on working as hard as we can to seek the release of all three of the hikers,” he said.

The bail amount, dictated by Iranian officials, was set at $500,000. Shourd’s family appealed to authorities to drop the bail amount, saying they could not afford it. The hiker, Sarah Shourd, 31, was seized in July 2009 with Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal who were hiking in Iraq’s Kurdistan region when they crossed into Iran. Tehran accuses the hikers of entering the country illegally and having links to U.S. intelligence. Iranian reporters on Thursday were informed that the Shourd would be released on Saturday at 9 a.m. local time at the Estaghlal hotel, the same hotel where the parents of the American hikers were allowed to meet them in May.

An Iranian official with the U.N. told BNO News late last week that they would be releasing Sarah Shourd from Tehran’s Evin prison “very soon.” There was no official explanation as to why the release was taking place, and would not reveal any more information on the details of the release. None of the hikers have been publicly charged.

The Iranian government in August reiterated the belief that they would stand trial for illegal entry, but did not formally charge them, as they said they were still considering espionage and related charges. It’s unclear what the motivation for the delay was, but it seems possible that Shourd has fallen victim to a power-struggle between Iranian officials.

There seems to be an indication that Iranian President Ahmadinejad tried to arrange the release of the hiker. However, longtime supporters of the President, the Iranian revolutionary guards, disagreed with the decision and, in a rare move, made their opinion known to the semi-official Fars News Agency, of whom they have close ties with. The political strife within the country is likely a contributor to the changing conditions of the release.

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