Iranian authorities have again reversed their decision on the fate of American Sarah Shourd, saying today that she will now be released on $500,000 bail because of health problems, according to a senior Iranian prosecutor.
The announcement comes after three days of flip-flopping on the case by the Iranian government -- moves in a case that has further strained U.S.-Iranian relations.
Shourd has been detained along with her traveling companions, her fiance Shane Bauer and friend Josh Fattal, since July 2009, when the trio of hikers were picked up at the Iraq-Iran border and imprisoned under espionage charges.
"Based on reports and the approval of the relevant judge about the sickness of Ms. Shourd, her detention was converted to $500,000 bail, and if the bail is deposited, she can be released," Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadias said, according to the official IRNA news agency.
Conditions of Shourd's bail do not prevent her from leaving Iran, but she will still face trial along with Bauer and Fattal, who will remain in Iranian custody, according to Dowlatabadi.
Shourd's mother has stated that her daughter, who has been in solitary confinement, has been denied treatment for serious health conditions, including a breast lump and precancerous cervical cells.
"All of the three were fine and I was with them for about three hours," Masoud Shafiei, the lawyer for the three Americans, told The Associated Press. "Shourd will go home within the next two to three days."
Shafiei is now making arrangements for the $500,000 bail payment for Shourd with the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which represents U.S. interests in Tehran.
Iranian officials said Thursday that they planned to release Shourd on Saturday, but Friday they abruptly delayed the release. The semi-official Iranian news agency ILNA quoted the deputy chief of communication for the Iranian president's office, Mohammed Hassan Salilhimaram, as saying Shourd's release scheduled would be put off. He gave no further details.
Reuters news agency reported on Friday that Shourd's release was postponed due to unfinished legal procedures.
The announcement on Friday was a disappointment to Shourd's family, particularly because only hours earlier, Iran announced that Shourd's released had been moved from a hotel to a presidential palace in the capital of Tehran and state media reported that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had personally intervened to secure Shourd's release in part because of the "special viewpoint of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the dignity of women" and as an act of clemency to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
State Department spokeswoman Julie Reside said the United States was never able to confirm Shourd's release was certain.
"We have never had confirmation that Iran was intending to release her. We've seen press reports, we were pleased to hear that she would be released. We would be pleased if she were released. Needless to say we still remain concerned about all Americans who are held unjustly, including those held in Iran," Reside said.
Iranian experts saw in the delay signs of a political split in Tehran's leadership.