Iran Could Release American Hiker After Bail

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One of three American hikers held in Iran could be released as early as Monday. However, Iranian internal political struggles and a $500,000 bail are threatening the effort.

Iranian authorities arrested Sarah Shourd and her two travel companions in July of 2009, accusing the trio of being spies. The three insist they accidentally crossed the Iran-Iraq border while on a hike.

Last May, the Islamic Republic allowed the three Americans a joyful reunion with their mothers. Then finally last week, Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pushed for Shourd's release, based on health reasons.

Tehran's chief prosecutor has also agreed that she should be freed due to her health -- but he's asking for $500,000 in bail.

"Obviously, we're hopeful and encouraged by this news. But here have been starts and stops in this before, and until that actually happens, you know, we're on a wait and see basis," White House Adviser David Axelrod said.

It's not clear just where the bail money might come from. U.S. officials say the American government will not pay it.

It is also not clear whether Shourd could be pressured to return to Iran for trial. Her two friends may soon be tried for illegally entering the country. The offense is punishable by up to ten years in prison.

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