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Iran cancels release of hiker

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Iran’s judiciary has blocked the planned release of one of three Americans imprisoned in Tehran since last year, a news agency quoted a powerful official as saying late Friday.

Iran’s semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency quoted Tehran’s chief prosecutor Abbas Jaffar Dolatabadi as saying the “legal procedure” to secure the release of 32-year-old Sarah Shourd was not yet complete.

Shourd and two friends, Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer, were arrested July 31, 2009, after allegedly straying into Iranian territory during a hiking trip in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iranian officials had earlier said Shourd would be released this morning as a gesture of good will to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

But Dolatabadi, Iran’s second-most powerful judicial official, said the release would not take place. Though it was announced by Iranian officials, he blamed the media for jumping the gun.

“Since the legal procedure on the case of the mentioned arrested American national has not been completed, her release, which was reported by a number of websites, has been canceled,” Dolatabadi was quoted as saying. “Clearly any decision regarding the mentioned accused will be made after the completion of the legal procedure.”

No other explanation was offered. But the move suggests the kind of factional infighting within the political establishment that has bedeviled the Islamic Republic.


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