Recently freed hiker Sarah Shourd is not convinced she crossed into Iran at all and was told directly by an Iranian prosecutor that her guilt or innocence "really doesn't matter," the American told Oprah Winfrey today in her first television interview since her release last week.
"There was a moment that it hit me that this was going to be possibly a bigger deal than my worst fears," Shourd told Winfrey. "You know, we had two months of investigation, and there was a moment when my investigator said to me, 'Sara, the investigation is over.' And he said I could continue asking questions but, 'You've been told that the investigation is finished and at this point it's become political ... and it really doesn't matter if you're innocent or not. This is bigger than you.'"
Shourd was arrested along with her fiance, Shane Bauer, and her friend, Josh Fattal, on July 31, 2009 while hiking in northern Iraq near the Iranian border. For more than 13 months, the three were detained in Tehran, Iran's infamous Evin prison under accusations of espionage and illegally crossing the border.
Shourd was released earlier this month because of a deteriorating health condition and, as she said on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" today, because she was a woman and Iran "is proud of the fact that it's more lenient with women."
Bauer and Fattal remain in the Iranian prison.
Shourd told Winfrey she hopes to take advantage of Iranian President Ahmadinejad's visit to the United Nations in New York and will attempt to talk to the leader about freeing the other two hikers.
"I just want him to know that I have no animosity towards him or towards any Iranian people and there's just no reason for animosity in a situation like this," she said. "There's no feeling of blame or anger, there's just a strong desire for it to be over so we can go on with our lives."
Shourd shared touching, intimate details of her captivity -- including putting strawberry jelly on her lips to "dress up" on Fridays for the one hour a day she got to spend with Bauer and Fattal -- but also challenged Iranian officials' version of the story of their capture.
When Winfrey asked a question about "when" the trio crossed into Iran, Shourd interjected, "If!"
"The important thing for me to say about the arrest, too, is that there was absolutely no indication of a border. No signs," she said. "We didn't see a single person. No flag or building or fence, you know, the way we would imagine a border. We were just on one trail so I had no way of knowing where that border is."
After a five-month investigation, The Nation reported in June of this year based on eyewitness accounts that the hikers never entered Iran at all and were actually captured in Iraq and taken over the border.
Shourd told Winfrey that while they were hiking, soldiers suddenly appeared and spoke to the group in Farsi.
"We had no idea we were even near Iran," she said. "They told us that we had to come with them."
Shourd said the group was not immediately taken to prison, but was driven around Iran for a few days, during which they endured interrogations.
"We switched hands several times and we spent the night in this small prison kind of in the middle of nowhere," she said.
She claimed their captors repeatedly promised them freedom.