American Woman Feared Held in Iran Found Safe

Iranian media had reported woman tried to sneak in to country to spy.

ByABC News
January 8, 2011, 11:10 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2011— -- The State Department says an American woman who was the focus of unconfirmed media reports that she had been arrested in Iran for espionage while entering from Armenia is safe and not in Iranian custody.

"We have located the U.S. citizen who appears to have been the subject of the reports and confirmed that the individual is safe," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said late Saturday. "She is not in Iran."

He could not provide further details.

A U.S. official told ABC News that the woman is in Istanbul, Turkey, and that American consular officials are in touch with her.

On Thursday, reports in some state-run Iranian media outlets said an American woman had been arrested by customs officials for hiding "spying technology or a microphone" in her teeth while trying to enter northwestern Iran from neighboring Armenia.

On Friday, State Spokesman P.J. Crowley cast doubt on the reports of the woman's arrest as he said that neither Armenia nor Iran had a record of an American woman entering Iran through a checkpoint along their borders.

"We have no information to corroborate this alleged incident," Crowley said.

He said that "in addition to checking our own records, we have contacted Armenian authorities and through our Swiss protecting power the Iranian government concerning these reports. Neither Iran nor Armenia reports having any record of a U.S. citizen crossing or attempting to cross the Iran-Armenia border as indicated in media accounts."

Attempts by American officials to confirm the woman's citizenship and identity proved difficult as contradictory information began to appear in other Iranian media outlets that denied the initial reports and said no American had been detained.

The contradictions continued on Saturday as new media reports rom a senior Iranian police official provided even more contradictory details on the woman's alleged arrest and identity.

Gen. Ahmad Geravand told the ISNA news agency that the woman was 34-year-old Hal Fayalan and that she had been arrested at a border crossing with Azerbaijan. He said she "was on a mission for the Americans to film the country's borders."