News / Middle East

    Nuclear Scientist Receives Hero's Welcome in Iran


    Iranian researcher Shahram Amiri arrived home in Tehran Thursday to a hero's welcome, amid further allegations that he had been abducted by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) -- a claim that Washington strenuously denies.   He had spent more than a year in the United States, at one point saying in a video posting that he was studying in Arizona of "his own volition."

    Iranian government television has played a series of webcam interviews with him in recent weeks, each containing new and conflicting tales about his alleged abduction in Saudi Arabia, last year.

    Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denied the charges, saying that he was "free to leave," as he had been "free to come," in the first place.

    Torture allegations

    At a news conference Thursday, in the company of Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashghavi, Amiri repeated allegations he had made before leaving Washington.

    He says that, during his initial two months in the United States, he had been subjected to harsh mental and physical torture by agents and interrogators from the CIA.  He goes on to claim that the purpose of his alleged abduction was to discredit Iran and its nuclear program.

    Kidnapping story

    During an interview with Iranian TV from the Pakistani Embassy in Washington Tuesday, Amiri alleged that he had been kidnapped in the Saudi city, Medina, after accepting a ride to a mosque.  He also claimed to have been given an injection, before being flown out of the country.

    In his news conference, Amiri spoke of being interrogated by "Israeli agents".  He also said U.S. agents urged him to announce he was in possession of a laptop that contained important information.  He kept the rest of his story vague, promising to reveal more information, later.

    He says that, God willing, he will prove everything he has said and prove that it is American officials who are lying.

    Iranian position

    Iranian officials have repeatedly complained, during the past year, that Amiri had been kidnapped while on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.  Amiri's case also came up frequently when the United States pressed Iran about the capture and detention of three young American hikers in Iraqi Kurdistan.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Qashghavi insisted Thursday that the two cases are not related.

    Family pressure?

    Several Iranian commentators, who live in exile in the West, argued Wednesday on al Arabiya TV that Amiri's family had come under pressure from the government and had been threatened with an "ugly fate" if he did not return home.

    Thursday's Washington Post reports several American officials say Amiri had been paid $5 million to provide information to the United States on Iran's nuclear program.

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