Iran releases Sarah Shourd but retains other hikers
In July of 2009, three people were hiking through Kurdistan, an area comprising parts of Turkey, Iraq and Iran. The often conflicted area is named for the ethnic population of the region, the Kurds. The hikers were taken into custody by Iranian authorities and accused of being spies and carrying out espionage. Authorities promised to release one and then recanted, and now have flip-flopped again and freed Sarah Shourd, one of the hikers. Iranian authorities offered her release for $500,000, which the U.S. refused to pay. The other hikers remain in custody, one of which is her fiance.
Hiking with intent to spy
All three captured hikers, Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, work in the Middle East. Bauer is also Shourd’s fiance. They picked Kurdistan as a vacation site because it is mostly free of the sectarian conflicts in the southern parts of Iraq. While hiking outside of Zalem, a village in Iraqi Kurdistan, the hikers were detained by the Iranian national police, according to The Nation. Though the border is not easily identified, locals in the area claim that Iranian forces regularly enter Iraq, where they lack jurisdiction.
One hiker freed
Several weeks ago, the Iranian government announced it would release Sarah Shourd on $500,000 bail, which the U.S. government said it would not pay. Days later, the Iranian government recanted. Then, it was announced that Sarah Shourd was being released, on bail, for health reasons, according to CNN. Washington and Tehran technically have no relations, and the Swiss have been acting as liaison since 1979. The bail was supposedly deposited into a bank account in Oman. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal remain in Iranian custody.
No case for espionage
Numerous sources have reported that the hikers never even crossed into the Iranian border. People from the area where they were captured have repeatedly said that Iranian police and intelligence operatives openly and notoriously cross the border and detain people. A simple accidental trespassing charge should take 10 minutes in front of any judge. There is little evidence that the detention of these people was anything other than politically motivated.