Freed Hiker Sarah Shourd Pleads Case to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Shourd pleaded her case for Iran to release American friends still in Iran.

ByABC News via logo
September 19, 2010, 11:59 AM

Sept. 24, 2010— -- Sarah Shourd, the American hiker recently released from Iran after nearly 14 months of detention, says she met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today to plead for the release of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, fellow hikers still in Iranian custody.

"For me to talk to the president [is] something I prayed for while in prison," Shourd told ABC News outside a New York hotel. "I just want to thank Mr. Ahmadinejad for this gesture of allowing my mother and I to meet with him and for the mothers of Shane and Josh. It was a very gracious gesture and a good meeting."

Shourd did not reveal where she and the others met with Ahmadinejad or offer other details, though she said Ahmadinejad seemed much friendlier than his public persona during "a very human encounter, very personal."

"I'm just going to keep pushing every minute for their release on humanitarian grounds," Shourd said. "I feel my case sets a precedent for their release."

The meeting came a day after Ahmadinejad made a controversial speech to the United Nations questioning whether the U.S. secretly plotted the 9/11 terror attacks, prompting members of the American delegation and others to storm out of the hall in protest.

Shourd's release from Iranian detention came after she discovered irregularities in her breast, but she told ABC News today that doctors now have assured her she's healthy.

"Now that I am able to see doctors, my issues have been addressed," she said. "There in prison, I wasn't able to see doctors and ask questions. But the doctors have reassured me that there is nothing of serious concern with my health."

Shourd described meeting Ahmadinejad hours after saying on ABC News' "Good Morning America" Friday that she would not rule out going back to Iran if it meant proving her innocence and that of her fiance, Bauer, and friend, Fattal.

"I'm not ruling anything out, but I'm not ruling anything in," Shourd said. "I hope that that doesn't have to happen. If that's what it takes to prove that we committed no crime and meant no harm and are absolutely innocent, than I'd be willing to do it."

Upon her release on $500,000 bail two weeks ago, an Iranian prosecutor said that Shourd would have to return to face trial for entering the country illegally. Bauer and Fattal remain in Evin prison in Tehran, Iran, where they have been since the trio was arrested in July 2009.

Shourd has been using her newfound freedom to repeatedly plead to Iranian officials and religious leaders for Bauer and Fattal's release, and described on "GMA" what she would say if she met Ahmadinejad.

"I really want to beseech him and encourage him to end this for Shane and Josh," she said. "There is absolutely no evidence that we committed a crime."

Shourd, who spent an overwhelming majority of her captivity in solitary confinement, said that any idea that her stoic appearance today reflects a relatively easy time in prison is misguided.

"A lot people say that I look OK but that's because no one's ever going to see what I looked in my cell, screaming and crying and pounding on the door and no one came to help me," she said.

The only bright moments in prison, she said, came during the one hour a day she was allowed to see Bauer and Fattal. The brightest moment of all, however, was when Bauer, her longtime boyfriend, used a string from his shirt to make her a ring for a surprise proposal.

"That was completely unexpected. I mean, I was hoping for it for a long time," Shourd said. "I was planning on asking Shane upon our release, but he beat me to it. It was not the typical idea of romantic, but extremely romantic in the circumstances."

The group was picked up by Iranian officials on July 31, 2009 after they allegedly crossed into Iran while hiking in what Shourd called a popular tourist destination in northern Iraq. Officials accused them of espionage.

"The most important thing is that we were hiking behind a tourist site," Shourd said. "We had no intention of going to Iran. ... A mistake was made."

Shourd appeared unconvinced the group was ever in Iran at all in an appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" Thursday. When Winfrey asked a question about "when" the trio crossed into Iran, Shourd interjected, "If!"

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."

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.