‘Abducted’ Iranian back home, denies spilled secrets to US
TEHRAN (AFP) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ An Iranian scientist who spent 14 months in the United States in mysterious circumstances denied on his arrival in Tehran on Thursday that he had spilled Iran’s nuclear secrets to US agents.
Repeating his claims he had been abducted by US spies, Shahram Amiri told reporters at Tehran airport that not only did he have nothing to do with Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, he had also resisted US pressure to tell the media that he was a well-informed atomic scientist.
He said his captors wanted him to tell the US media that he had “defected on his own and was carrying important documents and a laptop which contained classified secrets of Iran’s military nuclear programme.”
“But with God’s will, I resisted,” Amiri said, soon after being welcomed at Tehran airport by his tearful son and overjoyed wife.
Amiri, who vanished from Saudi Arabia in June 2009 while on a pilgrimage, surfaced in Iran’s Interests Section in Washington two days ago.
He jetted out of Washington on Wednesday after US officials insisted he had arrived in the United States on his own free will and that there was nothing stopping him from leaving.
He insisted on his arrival in Tehran that he was a “simple researcher” and not involved in Iran’s nuclear programme, which world powers believe masks an atomic weapons drive despite continued Iranian denials.
“I had nothing to do with the Natanz and Fordo sites,” Amiri said, referring to Iran’s two uranium enrichment plants.
“It was a tool the US government brought up for political pressure,” he said, referring to reports he was a nuclear scientist.
“I have done no research on nuclear. I am a simple researcher who works in a university which is open to all and there is no secret work happening there.”
His denials come even as The Washington Post reported Thursday that Amiri was paid more than five million dollars by the CIA to provide intelligence on Iran’s nuclear programme.
Amiri “is not obligated to return the money but might be unable to access it after breaking off what US officials described as significant cooperation with the CIA and abruptly returning to Iran,” the Post report said.
It cited unnamed officials as saying he may have left the United States “out of concern that the Tehran government would harm his family.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a media conference in Tehran on Thursday that Amiri’s return was the “result of two years of efforts made by (Iran) through different channels,” adding the “details of his abduction will be clarified after an investigation.”
Amiri’s return home is the latest twist to a bizarre saga which has baffled the world media for months and which began with his mysterious disappearance, followed by conflicting videos posted on the Internet of a man claiming to be Amiri and talking of being abducted.
He on Thursday repeated claims he made in Washington earlier in the week that he was “kidnapped by American and Saudi intelligence agents” in front of his hotel in the city of Medina.
He added he was later injected with anaesthesia and taken to the US on board a military plane.
“In the initial two months of captivity, I was put through harshest mental torture,” Amiri told reporters at a press conference at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport.
Amiri said that during his interrogations, “there were interrogators from Israel present in some sessions and it was evident that they had planned to move me to Israel”.
Israel is Iran’s key regional foe and has not ruled out a military strike against Tehran to stop its galloping nuclear programme.
Amiri dismissed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments that he had freely come to the United States and was free to go whenever he wanted.
“I am really amazed by the US foreign minister who says I was free there and went there freely. I was not free there and I was under the control of armed people of the intelligence service,” he said.
Amiri said US officials had even offered to pay him “50 million dollars” if he changed his mind and decided to stay in the United States. They also assured him they would get his family out of Iran, he said, but added that during his captivity there were “threats issued against my family.”