Iranian authorities abruptly halted plans to release an American woman today after more than a year in jail with two friends, dashing their mothers' hopes and pointing to the internal rivalries within Iran's leadership. The about-face was an embarrassment to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had personally intervened to get Sarah Shourd released as an act of clemency at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. With just hours to go, judiciary officials blocked the release, indicating she must stand trial before an amnesty could be granted.
Shourd has been held in solitary confinement, and her mother has said she's been denied treatment for serious health problems, including a breast lump and precancerous cervical cells. Tehran's chief prosecutor said the release could not take place because "judicial procedures have not been completed." In an apparent attempt to save face, an unidentified official in the president's office was quoted today as saying the postponement of Shourd's release was due to the Eid al-Fitr holiday. (Read more Sarah Shourd stories.)