US Will Not Pay Bail for Detained American in Iran

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BY SUZANNE PRESTO — The State Department said Monday that the U.S. government will not be involved in any possible arrangement to pay Iran half-a-million dollars bail for Sarah Shourd, one of three Americans who have been in custody in Tehran for more than one year.  

Last week, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi announced that Iranian judges were willing to convert Shourd’s detention to $500,000 in bail, citing medical grounds.


U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters on Monday that the U.S. government is aware of Tehran’s offer, but that the situation is unclear.  Crowley said Swiss diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in Iran, are seeking further information.

Crowley did not provide specifics about the case.  But he stressed that if a bail payment is made, U.S. government funds would not be used.

“The United States government does not fund prisoner bail,” he said.

The United States is among the nations that have strict sanctions in place against financial transactions with Iran.  

Crowley says a bail payment to Iran would not necessarily violate international sanctions or require a special waiver or exemption, noting that there continue to be transactions between Iran and other countries.

“Some of them violate sanctions.  Others don’t,” he said.

Lawyers for Shourd say Swiss diplomats are asking that the $500,000 bail be dropped or reduced.

Shourd’s mother says her daughter has a pre-cancerous cervical condition and a lump in her breast that have gone untreated.

Iranian authorities have detained Shourd and two other Americans – Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal – since July 2009, after they crossed the unmarked border between northern Iraq and Iran.

Iran accuses the three of spying and illegally entering the country.  Their families insist that they were hiking and that they crossed the border by accident.

The United States has repeatedly said the three are not involved in espionage and pressed for their return.

Last week, Iran said it would release Shourd as an act of clemency on Saturday, to coincide with the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.  But judicial officials abruptly canceled those plans, saying that there were unresolved legal issues.