- Associated Press - Monday, September 13, 2010

TEHRAN (AP) — The lawyer for an American woman detained in Iran said on Monday that her family is appealing to authorities to drop a demand for $500,000 bail in exchange for her release because it cannot afford the amount.

Masoud Shafiei told the Associated Press he is aware that Swiss diplomats — who handle U.S. affairs in Iran — are asking that the bail be dropped or lowered for Sarah Shourd. He says the family of the 32-year-old woman is apparently facing difficulty raising the money.

Mr. Shafiei said he had no word Monday on Iran’s response.

Iran‘s internal battles over the handling of Miss Shourd’s case flared again Monday as the mouthpiece of the powerful Revolutionary Guard led the backlash against a decision to free her on bail.

The criticism by Guard-linked Fars news agency and others — including one lawmaker calling it a “bonus for Koran burners” in the United States — show the judiciary’s offer to release Miss Shourd on health grounds had failed to quiet the political tempest among Iran‘s conservative factions.

The political sniping also shows the country’s simmering political rivalries and the various groups vying for greater slices of power since last year’s disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, who first tried to shepherd the release of Miss Shourd last week, was rebuked by the courts, which insisted that any release had to be on their terms.

Now Mr. Ahmadinejad’s supporters, led by the Revolutionary Guard, are firing back against the judiciary’s decision.

Also in the mix are some conservative lawmakers objecting to any plans at freeing Miss Shourd, who was detained along the Iraqi border in July 2009 along with two American friends, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal.

Iranian authorities say they have issued indictments on spy-related charges. That could mean trials for the two American men and proceedings in absentia for Miss Shourd if she is freed.

It’s unclear whether any internal objections could complicate Miss Shourd’s expected release. But there was no criticism of the decision in Iranian newspapers, suggesting the court’s move had the backing of the ruling theocracy, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The Revolutionary Guards, however, made their displeasure known through a rare commentary in Fars, which is close to the elite military group.

“If they were spies — as the Intelligence Ministry has said — why should they received clemency and escape Islamic justice?” said the dispatch.

The detainees’ families say they were hiking in Iraq’s scenic north when they were detained on July 31, 2009, and that if they crossed the border, they did so unwittingly.

The commentary went on to say that allowing Miss Shourd to “jump out” of detention will have “no result except discrediting security and intelligence agencies as well as the judiciary.”

It also denounced the timing. Fars said the decision came “when the worst insults to Islamic sanctities are flourishing in the U.S.” — an apparent reference to anti-Muslim rallies and the canceled plans by a Florida pastor to burn copies of the Koran.

Fars even went to an outspoken critic of Mr. Ahmadinejad to further bash the decision.

Conservative lawmaker Ahmad Tavakkoli called the possible release a “bonus for Koran burners” and a reward for the United States after it pressed for tighter sanctions over Iran‘s nuclear program.

Another conservative website, Tabnak, also criticized the decision. The site is close to Mohsen Rezaei, a former Revolutionary Guard commander who ran against Mr. Ahmadinejad last year.

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