Iran to Release Sarah Shourd Tonight

By Matt Baume
|  Friday, Sep 10, 2010  |  Updated 2:36 PM PDT
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Iran to Release Sarah Shourd Tonight

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Detained US hiker Sarah Shourd sits with her mother during their first meeting since their arrest, in the Iranian capital Tehran on May 20, 2010. The mothers of three US hikers detained for 10 months in Iran called for their release as a "humanitarian gesture" after an emotional reunion with their children, an AFP correspondent said. AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

It's a step in the right direction: one family's gut-wrenching disaster has come to a partial resolution with the release of Sarah Shourd, one of three UC Berkeley students detained in Iran after they inadvertently crossed the border while hiking in Iraq in July of last year.

Word of Shourd's release came Thursday morning and it is scheduled to happen around 11 p.m. California-time Friday.

Shourd mother had plead for the woman's release after it was revealed Sarah might have cancer. She had precancerous cervical cells, and told her mother that she had discovered a breast lump recently. Contact between the prisoners and their families has been brief.

The State Department has been working furiously to secure Shourd's release, along with her fiancee, Shane Bauer, and friend Joshua Fattal. Since capturing them, Iran has been insisting that they have ties to U.S. intelligence. It remains to be seen whether the other two prisoners will be released, but families continue to hope.

The possibility has been raised that Iran is releasing Shourd to pressure the U.S. into a prisoner exchange. The gesture marks the end of Ramadan, a time traditionally tied to clemency and the release of prisoners.

Normal protocol would be to turn Shourd over to Swiss diplomats who would take her to the embassy.  Shourd could be flown to Geneva or Dubai next.  It was not clear when she would return to U.S. soil or when she would be reunited with her family.

So far Iran is not saying anything about the other hikers who were arrested with her.

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