Iran on Friday postponed the planned release of Sarah Shourd, state media reported. That news dealt a blow to the hopes of three U.S. mothers who have pleaded for the trio's release.
Iranian officials had said that the Cal grad and jailed hiker, who was detained with her friends near Iran's border with Iraq, would be released on Saturday. But the IRNA state news agency quoted the deputy chief of communication for the Iranian president's office, Mohammed Hassan Salilhimaram, as saying that would not happen.
The U.S. State Department and relatives said they had no immediate information about the reports, which came just hours before her scheduled release.
ILNA quotes Tehran chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi as saying Friday that "because the judicial procedures have not been done, the release of the American suspect ... has been canceled."
Iranian officials had announced that they would free Shourd Saturday.
Shourd and two friends, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, were arrested along the Iran-Iraq border in July 2009. Iran has accused them of illegal border crossing and spying. Their families say they were hiking and that if they crossed the border, they did so unwittingly.
The initial release gesture was to mark the end of Ramadan, a time traditionally tied to clemency and the release of prisoners.
Iran did not ever make a comment about the other hikers who were arrested with Shourd.
A judicial official close to the prosecutor's office said that Tehran's chief prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi believes the release is unacceptable because Shourd should first stand before the court and then the amnesty will be granted, but not before a court hearing.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue.
Shourd's name was not among the official list of prisoners freed at the end of Ramadan, suggesting that prosecutors want the Americans to first face trial before any kind of pardon or clemency is considered.
Typically, inmates released during Ramadan have already been convicted.
The planned release of Shourd had provided a long-sought sign of hope to the Americans' families, who have been pleading with Iranian officials to free their children since their arrest.
Now, they are once again left wondering what is going to happen.
"We don't know anything," said Samantha Topping, a New York publicist working with the families. She said the families knew only what they were hearing from media about a delayed release.