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Iran to free female US hiker detained for spying

world Updated: Sep 10, 2010 17:16 IST

Iran will soon free a female US hiker detained in the Islamic republic for more than a year for alleged spying, officials said, with some indicating that she would be released on Saturday.

Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told English-language Press TV on Friday that Sarah Shourd, one of the three US hikers currently held in Iran, will be "released soon to rejoin with her family."

"Discussions are still ongoing regarding the details and the date of her release," he said, adding that her release was an act of "Islamic compassion" and was taken after discussions that involved even President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

An official with the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance, without naming the detainee, said the release would occur on Saturday in Tehran's Hotel Esteghlal.

"In a ceremony at 0430 GMT on Saturday at Tehran's Hotel Esteghlal, one of the three Americans who were arrested for entering Iranian soil illegally, will be released," Ehsan Qazizadeh Hashemi, local media chief at the ministry told state news agency IRNA.

Yesterday, the ministry had also informed AFP through a text message about the same date and timing of the release of an American detainee.

A release tomorrow would coincide with the end of Ramadan and the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

It also comes with Tehran under mounting international pressure over the case of Iranian Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

Shourd, 31, was arrested along with fellow Americans Shane Bauer, 27, and Josh Fattal, 27 on July 31, 2009 after straying across the border from neighbouring Iraq.

Her mother Nora told AFP last month that Sarah was being held in solitary confinement despite suffering from a pre-cancerous cervical condition, a lump in her breast and depression.

The mothers of the trio, whom Iran accuses of spying and entering the country illegally, have voiced hope that news that one of them would be released signalled the end to their battle for freedom.

"We have seen the news reports and are urgently seeking further information," mothers Cindy Hickey, Nora Shourd and Laura Fattal said in a joint statement.

The White House said it was checking the veracity of reports on the planned release with the Swiss government, which has represented US interests in Iran since the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.