WASHINGTON — President Obama on Thursday officially welcomed home Sarah Shourd, the hiker freed in mid-September after spending more than a year imprisoned in Iran alongside her fiancé, Minnesota native Shane Bauer, and their friend Josh Fattal.
In a meeting with Shourd and her mother Norah, Bauer’s mother Cindy Hickey and Fattal’s parents, Obama noted the bittersweet occasion — sweet for Shourd’s released but bitter because Bauer and Fattal remain in a Tehran prison accused of spying against Iran.
Bauer, Shourd and Fattal had been imprisoned for more than a year since they were arrested during a hike that began in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, near the Iranian border. Iran claims the three were spies, however the hikers’ relatives and U.S. officials say that if they crossed the border at all, it was inadvertent.
The U.S. and Iran do not have formal diplomatic relations. Instead, the Swiss Embassy in Tehran usually acts as a formal go-between for the two for most talks. Officials in Oman, a sultanate on the Arabian peninsula that maintains close ties with both Tehran and Washington, were also key to Shourd’s release both in negotiating the terms of her release and serving as the safe harbor she was initially transferred to upon her release. Switzerland and Oman are also reportedly leading the formal effort to free Bauer and Fattal.
The White House’s readout of the meeting is reprinted in full below:
The President today personally welcomed home Sarah Shourd, the American hiker who was detained for over a year by Iran. We share in the joy of Sarah’s family, friends and all Americans who have lent their support, prayers and hope throughout this horrific ordeal.
In a meeting with Sarah and the mothers of the three hikers who were detained by the Iranian government, the President noted that this occasion remains bittersweet. Sarah’s fiancé Shane Bauer and their friend Josh Fattal are still in detention in Iran. We remain hopeful that Iran will demonstrate renewed compassion and do the right thing by ensuring the safe return of Shane, Josh and all the other missing or detained Americans in Iran.
We continue to salute the courage and strength of the Shourd, Bauer, and Fattal families, who have endured the unimaginable absence of their loved ones. We have gained strength from their resolve, and the President underscored that we will continue to do everything we can to secure the release of Shane and Josh.