Iran's Culture Ministry says one of the three UC Berkeley grads jailed for more than a year will be released Saturday to mark the end of Islamic holy month of Ramadan. By midday, Iran's envoy to the United Nations said it was Sarah Shourd who would be freed. Her mother lives here in the Bay Area and has been praying for this news for more than a year.
Reporters were told by text message on Thursday to come to the same hotel where the Americans' parents were allowed to meet them recently to witness the release.
"Offering congratulations on Eid al-Fitr," the message said referring to the holiday marking the end of the fasting month. "The release of one of the detained Americans will be at Saturday, 9 a.m. at the Estaghlal hotel." That is the same location where the mothers were allowed to meet with the three earlier this year.
Once Shroud is released, normal protocol would be to turn the person over to Swiss diplomats to be taken to the embassy. As to where she will go next and how soon, that was not immediately clear. There are direct commercial flights to Geneva and Dubai, but many are booked because of the Ramadan holiday.
The families of Shourd, 31; her boyfriend, Shane Bauer, 27; and their friend Josh Fattal, 27 -- say the trio was hiking in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region on July 31 when they accidentally crossed the border into Iran.
A statement by Samantha Topping, a New York-based spokeswoman for the three mothers, said they are "urgently seeking further information."
"We hope and pray that the reports are true and that this signals the end of all three of our children's long and difficult detention," the statement said. "Shane, Sarah and Josh are all innocent and we continue to call for their immediate release, so that they can return home together and be reunited with our families."
All three of the Cal grads have suffered health issues since their detainment. The worst off is Shourd, who has been suffering from a gynecological condition and has also found a lump in her breast. She's also been battling depression. Shourd's mother, Nora, has appealed to a human rights panel to allow her daughter to seek proper medical treatment.
Bauer has a stomach ailment.
Nora Shroud did not speak to reporters as she left her home Thursday afternoon. In the morning she told AP, "We don't know anything. We're trying like crazy to see what we can find out. I hope it's true -- that's all I can say for sure. But I don't know if it is."
Nora Shourd had the last contact with any of the three jailed Americans, when Sarah called her on Aug. 2 and the two spoke for three or four minutes.
Earlier this week a prominent Islamic scholar named Akbar Ahmed asked Iran's supreme leader to show "Islamic compassion" and release the Americans. Ahmed is a professor at American University. His three page letter was delivered through diplomatic channels.
Below is video from an earlier visit to Iran by the families.