Iran to release one US 'spy' to mark the end of Ramadan

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The Independent Online

Iran says it will free one of three Americans jailed for more than a year tomorrow in an act of clemency to mark the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The Culture Ministry sent a text message to reporters telling them to come to a Tehran hotel to witness the release. It is the same hotel where the three were allowed the only meeting with their mothers since they were detained in July 2009.

"Offering congratulations on Eid al-Fitr," the message said referring to the holiday marking the end of Ramadan. "The release of one of the detained Americans will be Saturday at 9am at the Esteghlal hotel." It is common in the Islamic world to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday by showing clemency and releasing prisoners.

Iran has not said which one of the Americans would be released. But Sarah Shourd, 31, has told her mother she has serious medical problems.

Nora Shourd said her daughter told her in a telephone call in August that prison officials have denied her requests for medical treatment. The mother said they talked about her daughter's solitary confinement in Tehran's Evin prison.

During the American hostage crisis in 1979-1981, Iran first released women and African-Americans as a sign of respect for women and mercy toward minorities.

Ms Shourd, her boyfriend, Shane Bauer, 27, and their friend, Josh Fattal, 27, have been held in Iran since July 2009, when they were arrested along the Iraqi border. Iran has accused them of espionage; their families say they were hiking in Iraq's northern Kurdish region and, if they crossed the border, it was accidental. Iranian leaders have repeatedly suggested a link between the jailing of the Americans and Iranians held by the US. Tehran is demanding the release of its citizens.