US hiker heading home after release from Iran
The American hiker released by Iran thanked Oman on Saturday for mediating her 500,000-dollar-bail as she began her journey back to the United States, dpa reported.
Sarah Shourd, who had been held since July 2009 by Iran on suspicion of espionage along with two other American hikers, was released Tuesday by Tehran.
"I will always associate your country with the first breath of my freedom," she told reporters at Muscat International Airport, according to broadcast footage. "The sweet smell of sandalwood. Standing by the ocean and listening to the waves."
Iranian authorities arrested Shourd, 32, and Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 28, in July 2009 when they allegedly crossed an unmarked border into Iran while hiking in Iraq's Kurdistan region.
Shourd toured the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat Saturday before her departure. She called it a peaceful and powerful place of worship.
Her mother was with her in Oman.
Struggling to keep her composure, Shourd asked people to pray for her fiance, Shane, and her friend Josh.
"Inshallah, they will soon be free," she said, using the Arabic word that means God willing.
Tehran released Shourd due to an illness - reportedly a lump in her breast - and her need for specialized medical care, but asked for 500,000 dollar bail, which Oman mediated.
On Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggested that the US should also release jailed Iranians in return for Shourd's release.
He was referring to Iranians arrested for having violated international sanctions by exporting to Iran goods that could be potentially used in Iran's military and nuclear programmes.
Although Iranian intelligence has accused the three of spying, the Foreign Ministry has said that the main charge remained illegal entry, and that the espionage charges were still under investigation.
The Tehran prosecutor said Bauer and Fattal would remain in jail, and Shourd would be obliged to attend the trial.