Video: Freed hiker pleads for fiancé, friend

  1. Transcript of: Freed hiker pleads for fiancé, friend

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: Sarah Shourd is headed home tonight. The American woman freed from custody in Iran this week after more than a year behind bars is returning to the United States after a stopover in Oman . Before she left, she spoke publicly about the two companions she left behind . NBC 's Ron Allen reports.

    RON ALLEN reporting: Sarah Shourd prepared to leave Oman , full of gratitude to the country that helped gain her freedom.

    Ms. SARAH SHOURD: I will always associate your country with the first breath of my freedom, the sweet smell of sandalwood and the chance to stand by the ocean listening to the waves.

    ALLEN: And once again she appealed for the release of her companions.

    Ms. SHOURD: Please, please extend your prayers to my fiance, Shane , and my friend Josh. Insha'Allah , they will soon be free.

    ALLEN: Iranian officials have said Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal , arrested with Shourd back in July of 2009 for allegedly crossing illegally from Iraq into Iran , will face trial for spying. The Americans claim they were just hiking. In Tehran last week NBC 's Andrea Mitchell asked Iran 's president what evidence exists of spying.

    Mr. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD (Iranian President): I think we should let the judge and the courts decide about the case.

    ALLEN: And he said on state-run television that the United States should now release several Iranians being held in America , and has listed 11 people.

    Mr. AHMADINEJAD: We hope that our dear Iranians who are in prison there will be reunited with their families.

    ALLEN: Meanwhile, Shourd flies to the US from Oman with her companions, Bauer and Fattal , still very much on her mind.

    Ms. SHOURD: It is my deepest, deepest hope that I will be able to show Shane and Josh the Grand Mosque soon, one of the most peaceful and powerful places of worship I have ever seen.

    ALLEN: Her first stop in the United States will be here in New York tomorrow, a visit with a purpose. Leaders from around the world, including Iran 's president, are gathering for the annual meeting of the United Nations' General Assembly . Shourd plans to talk to the world's media Sunday, trying to keep the world's attention focused on her fiance and friend left behind in Iran .

    Lester: Ron Allen . Ron , thank you.


updated 9/18/2010 4:12:35 PM ET 2010-09-18T20:12:35

An American woman released from Iran after more than 13 months in custody began her journey back to the United States on Saturday after asking her supporters to "extend your prayers" to her fiancé and another American man who remain in Tehran accused of spying.

Image: Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal
Press TV via AP file
Shane Bauer, left, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal at the Esteghlal Hotel in Tehran on May 20.

In a brief statement, Sarah Shourd thanked Oman — an ally of both Iran and the United States — for mediating the $500,000 bail that led to her freedom earlier this week. But she made no mention of her ordeal inside Tehran's notorious Evin Prison or any health problems — which her mother has said include a breast lump and precancerous cervical cells.

"Please, please extend your prayers" to the other two Americans still held — her fiancé Shane Bauer and their friend Josh Fattal — she said at Oman's international airport before boarding an Oman Air flight on the first leg of her trip home accompanied by her mother Nora and an uncle.

She arrived in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from Oman late Saturday. She was next scheduled to appear at a news conference in New York on Sunday timed to coincide with the arrival of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to attend the U.N. General Assembly.

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Shourd, 32, appeared in good spirits and less gaunt than when she stepped off a private Omani jet late Tuesday after her release from Iran.

She expressed special gratitude to Oman, which helped secure the $500,000 bail that satisfied Iranian authorities and apparently did not violate U.S. economic sanctions. The source of the bail payment has not been disclosed.

"I'll always associate your country with the first breath of my freedom, the sweet smell of sandalwood and a chance to stand by the ocean listening to the waves," she said, wearing long-sleeve black T-shirt covered by a white top and white sneakers — a contrast to the maroon head scarf and tan button-down tunic she wore leaving Tehran.

The three Americans were detained in July 2009 along the Iraqi border. Iran has issued espionage-related indictments, which could bring trials for the two men and proceedings in absentia for Shourd. Their families say that if they crossed the border, they did so unintentionally.

Shourd has stayed out of the public eye since being embraced by her mother at a special royal airfield. Few details have emerged of her first days of freedom apart from going to a medical exam and a private tour Saturday of the Grand Mosque in Muscat.

She said she hoped to return someday with Bauer and Fattal — adding the common phrase "Inshallah" or "God willing" in Arabic. A crowd of international media was on hand for her statement in a VIP room with chandeliers and carved wooden doors, but she did not take questions.

Earlier in Tehran, Ahmadinejad said he was hopeful the United States would release several Iranians it is holding now that Shourd has been freed.

Ahmadinejad has suggested in the past that the three could be traded for Iranians held in the U.S., raising concerns that the Americans were to be used as bargaining chips as the two countries face off over issues like Iran's disputed nuclear program. In December, Iran released a list of 11 Iranians it says are in U.S. custody.

One of them, nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, returned to Iran in July. Iran said he had been kidnapped during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in June 2009 and taken to the United States. Washington said he was a willing defector who later changed his mind and was allowed to return home.

Timeline: Timeline of the arrests (on this page)

Speaking of Shourd's release, Ahmadinejad said in a state TV interview broadcast Friday night "We hope they appreciate this job."

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters the U.S. is "absolutely committed to the return of Josh and Shane," and appealed to Tehran to let them go.

"These two young men have been held without cause now for more than a year. It would be a very significant humanitarian gesture for the Iranians to release them as well," Clinton said.

She also spoke with the men's parents Thursday to reassure them about efforts to bring their sons home.

Iran's list of citizens it says are held in the U.S. includes three Iranians who have been convicted or charged in public court proceedings in the United States.

The circumstances surrounding some of the others are more mysterious. They include a former Defense Ministry official who vanished in Turkey in December 2006 and three others who Iran says were abducted in Europe and sent to the U.S.

Those involved in public court proceedings include Baktash Fattahi, a legal U.S. resident arrested in April 2009 in California and charged with conspiracy to export American-made military aircraft parts to Iran.

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Another, Amir Amirnazmi, is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who was convicted by a court in Pennsylvania in February 2009 of business dealings with Iranian companies banned under U.S. sanctions.

The third Iranian, Amir Hossein Ardebili, was sentenced to five years in prison in December 2009 by a court in Wilmington, Delaware, after pleading guilty to plotting to ship U.S. military technology to Iran. Iran has called it a show trial and said Ardebili was abducted in the former Soviet republic of Georgia in 2007 before being handed over to U.S. authorities in 2008.

The list also includes an Iranian arrested in Canada on charges of trying to obtain nuclear technology and two others who Iran says are being held in the U.S. without charge.

Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington and Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Timeline: Timeline of the arrests

Photos: Iran’s perilous path

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  1. 1921 to 1979: Iran's last monarchs

    After World War I, Reza Khan, a military officer riding a wave of nationalism and backed by Britain, seizes power from King Ahmad Shah. Reza Khan, shown here, is crowned Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1926 and initiates reforms easing social restrictions on women, building the Trans-Iranian Railway and shoring up the nation's finances. The country also drops the name Persia in favor of the local name Iran. His son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, succeeds him as shah in 1941, and continues his efforts to modernize the country. (General Photographic Agency / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. 1941 to 1970s: Our man in Iran

    Succeeding his father, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, here with his third wife, Farah Pahlavi, and their two children, intensifies modernization efforts. But economic turbulence, Cold War politics and disaffection among religious clerics also increase. With backing from the United States, the shah launches a massive industrial and military buildup. But corruption, inflation and a growing disparity in wealth fuel discontent. At the same time, the shah's increasingly dictatorial style and the brutal tactics of his secret police intensify resentment toward the government and spark protests. (James Andanson / Sygma - Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. 1978: Backlash

    Conservative religious leaders begin a protest movement aimed at the elite. The movement spreads and evolves into violent attacks on the shah's regime and Western culture. The movement is further radicalized on Black Friday, Sept. 8, when government troops fire into a crowd of demonstrators and kill scores. Demands for a democratic Islamic state grow. Movement leaders call for the return of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a religious and political radical exiled in Paris. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. 1979: Khomeini triumphs

    The shah, announcing a brief vacation, leaves Iran and hands over governance to a moderate party, sparking celebrations throughout the country. Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Tehran from Paris to a rapturous welcome from millions of Iranians. Within weeks, his movement topples the new government. Although he talked about democracy while he was in exile, Khomeini establishes a strict theocracy led by Muslim clerics. "Revolutionary courts" mete out summary justice to former officials and pass measures to nationalize much of the economy. The Islamic Republic of Iran is established on April 1. (Campion / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Nov. 1979 to Jan. 1981: Hostage crisis

    Iranian students occupy the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and take 66 Americans hostage. They demand the extradition of the shah, who is in the U.S. for cancer treatment. U.S. President Carter orders banks to freeze billions in Iranian assets. In April 1980, the U.S. secretly lands troops in Iran to rescue the hostages. The mission ends in disaster after a helicopter and a transport aircraft collide, killing eight U.S. soldiers. The hostages are finally freed, but the failed rescue effort damages Carter's re-election bid and the crisis mars U.S. attitudes toward Iran for decades. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. 1980 to 1988: Iran-Iraq War

    Iraq invades Iran following border skirmishes and amid a dispute over a key waterway, beginning a bloody eight-year war. Washington and Moscow vow to halt arms sales to Iran and Iraq. But officials in U.S. President Ronald Reagan's administration orchestrate secret arms sales to Tehran, in part to fund anti-communist guerrillas in Nicaragua. This scandal becomes known as the Iran-Contra affair. In 1988, Iran accepts a cease-fire with Iraq. Estimates of the number of war dead range up to 1.5 million, and both sides keep thousands of prisoners of war. A final exchange of POWs occurs in 2003. (Henri Bureau / Sygma - Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. 1988: Tragic mistake

    The U.S. cruiser Vincennes shoots down an Iranian Airbus airliner in the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people. Naval authorities say the crew of the Vincennes, part of a force escorting oil tankers in the area, mistook the airliner for an attacking Iranian F-14 fighter, and U.S. investigators clear the ship's officers. The incident draws vows of revenge from Iranian extremists and condemnation from moderates. Here, Iranians view caskets of the Iranian dead. (Irna / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. 1989 After the ayatollah

    The death of Ayatollah Khomeini's opened the way for gradual moderation in Iran's domestic and foreign policies. Shown here is the frenzied mourning that accompanied the ayatollah's funeral procession, during which the crowd broke open the casket. President Hashemi Rafsanjani, a wealthy businessman who also has political and religious connections, leads the country for nearly a decade. He introduces economic reforms, but maintains Iran's distance from the West. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. 1997 to 2005: Fight for reform

    In 1997, Mohammad Khatami, shown on posters, is overwhelmingly elected president with strong support from young people and women. He makes symbolic changes, such as naming the first woman to a Cabinet position since 1979. U.S.-Iranian tensions begin to wane and Washington eases some sanctions and restrictions on Iran, trying to bolster reformers. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on U.S. targets, Iran vows to aid in the war on terror. Khatami wins a second term in 2001, but his presidency is marked by a difficult struggle with religious conservatives. (Mohammad Sayyad / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. 2001 to 2002: Mood swing

    As Iranian moderates and conservative Islamists struggle for political supremacy, the administration of newly elected U.S. President George W.Bush takes a harder line toward Tehran. Skeptical of the prospects for gradual reform in Iran, the White House releases statements urging Iranians to change their government. Then, in January 2002, President Bush brands Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil," claiming that all three are pursuing weapons of mass destruction and exporting terror. The U.S. posture sparks a backlash on the streets of Iran, bolstering nationalism and undermining the progress of moderates. (Martin H. Simon / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. 2002 to 2009: Nuclear showdown

    Suspicions surface about Iran's nuclear program. Tehran insists it is a purely civilian pursuit, but satellite images and other intelligence suggest it also is pursuing nuclear weapons. EU negotiators press for more extensive inspections of Iran's facilities in return for economic and political perks, but they encounter growing Iranian intransigence. In 2005, hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assumes the Iranian presidency and vows irreversible resumption of uranium enrichment. Negotiations falter, prompting the U.N. Security Council in late 2006 to approve targeted sanctions against Iran. (Emamifars / Abaca) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. 2009: Tension with hints of reconciliation

    U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the issue of Iran in his first primetime news conference, saying it’s important to engage in “direct diplomacy.” But tensions still run high between Tehran and Washington. Iranian students tear up a picture of the president-elect on his inauguration day. Yet there are hints of a more conciliatory attitude from Iran’s government, with Ahmadinejad telling a rally that his country is ready for dialogue, provided talks are based on mutual respect. (Morteza Nikoubazl / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. June 2009: Challenger emerges

    Former Iranian prime minister and presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi greets supporters during a campaign rally at Enghelab stadium, west of Tehran, on June 6. Mousavi, a moderate, emerged as the main challenger to hardline Ahmadinejad, who sought a second term in office. (Farzaneh Khademian / Abaca) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. June 2009: Victory for Ahmadinejad?

    Thousands of supporters of Ahmadinejad wave flags during a massive rally on June 14 after the government said he won re-election. (Atta Kenare / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. June 2009: Turmoil in Tehran

    Tens of thousands of supporters of opposition candidate Mousavi stage days of demonstrations. Islamic leaders promise a limited recount after five days of protests. Authorities ban foreign news reporting from the streets, making it difficult for Western media to confirm many reports, including attacks on demonstrators by a state-backed militia. Here, protesters carry the body of a man allegedly shot by the militia on June 15. (Str / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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