US hiker Sarah Shourd won’t attend Iran trial

5 May 2011

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Sarah Shourd, one of three US hikers arrested by Iran in 2009 on espionage charges, told AFP Wednesday she would not return to Tehran to stand trial next week with her fiance and a friend.

Shourd, who was freed on bail in September after 14 months imprisonment mostly in solitary confinement, said she had been diagnosed with severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Returning to Iran could exacerbate her problems, she said.

Shourd had been due to return for the trial set for May 11 with her fiance Shane Bauer and their friend Josh Fattal, both of whom remain imprisoned in the Islamic Republic.

The three hikers, who have all pleaded not guilty to spying charges, say they innocently strayed into Iran from across the unmarked border with northern Iraq when they were arrested. Shourd, 32, who was released after months of international pressure led by the United States, said she had sent the Iranian Revolutionary Court a five-page evaluation by clinical forensic psychologist, Barry Rosenfeld. He concluded she is at high risk of renewed or even worse psychological problems if she returns to Iran to stand trial. Shourd had developed a major depressive disorder during her incarceration and needs “aggressive mental health treatment,” concluded Rosenfeld.

But Shourd voiced concern for the well-being of Bauer – to whom she became engaged during their incarceration – and Fattal.

“I was there for 14 months, they’ve now been there for over 21 months which is far longer and I’m sure that the extreme isolation they’re under has taken its toll. I worry about their safety, I worry about their mental health. We’ve had no information from them, no contact, phone call, nothing for over five months… what I’ve heard is that they now have only 40 minutes out of their cell every day. They don’t see any other human beings and they still haven’t been allowed a private meeting with their lawyer.”

The families of Bauer and Fattal, both 28, said in a statement they fully supported Shourd’s decision, but hoped the men would be released soon. The Iranian defense lawyer for the three, Masoud Shafii, has said he would press for their “innocence” and immediate release.

source: AFP

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