Thursday, July 15, 2010

Iran News Update: Scientist Claims Torture by US; Deaths in Mosque Attack

Thursday, July 15, 2010
17:30 Mecca time, 14:30 GMT

Iranian scientist claims US torture

Alireza Ronaghi reports from Tehran on Shahram Amiri's accusations of US torture

An Iranian man who said he was kidnapped by the US has arrived home in Tehran, vowing to reveal more details of his claimed abduction while on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia last year.

Arriving back in Iran early on Thursday, Amiri, 32, flashed a victory
sign as he was given a tearful welcome by relatives and friends at
Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport.

Speaking to Al Jazeera during a transit stop in Qatar, Shahram Amiri
said he was interrogated for 14 months by US agents who refused to
allow him contact with his family, but that he "never cracked" and had
not revealed any secret information about Iran's nuclear programme.

Washington has denied the claims, saying Amiri had lived freely in the US, had himself reached out to US officials, and was free to come and go.

Iranian authorities have repeatedly said that Amiri was seized by the
CIA during a visit to Saudi Arabia last year, and Iran's state
television has broadcast the text of what it said was an interview
with him in which he claims he was abducted at gunpoint by US agents while attending the Hajj pilgrimage.

"They gave me a shot which made me unconscious and then transferred me to the US onboard a military plane," Amiri said in Tehran, before making allegations that he was tortured during interrogations in the US.

"Within the first two months, I was subjected to fierce mental and
psychological torture by agents and interrogators from the US Central
Intelligence Agency."

Speaking to Al Jazeera during his journey back to Iran, Amiri said he
had been forced by US authorities to say in a video released on the
internet that he was enjoying life in the state of Arizona.

Al Jazeera has not been able to independently verify Amiri's allegations.

'Help of the Saudis'

Amiri said he was "kidnapped with the help of the Saudis" and had been "put under a number of pressures" while held in the US.

He said he had been dropped off at the Iranian interests section of
the Pakistan embassy in Washington on Monday after US agents decided they had no more need of him.

Amiri's disappearance has been linked to rising international pressure over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes but many countries led by the United States say the country is pursuing atomic weapons.

"Behind the scenes this was politically motivated and in my time in
the United States where I was held against my will, they asked me for
a series of documents ... they wanted to use this as a claim against
the Islamic Republic, so they could advance their own political
agenda," Amiri told Al Jazeera.

Iran's semi-official Fars news agency, reporting on the case, said
that Amiri had been handed over to the Pakistani embassy by US agents, calling it a defeat for US intelligence services.

"Because of Iran's media and intelligence activities, the American
government had to back down and hand over Amiri to the embassy on Monday night," Fars said.

The disappearance of Amiri, who worked at a university linked with
Iran's Revolutionary Guards, sparked accusations by Iranian officials
that he had been kidnapped by the CIA.

US contact

Washington has denied the allegations as well as speculation in the US media that Amiri had defected to the US and was working with the CIA.

The speculation was further compounded when a man claiming to be Amiri was shown in two different pieces of video footage on June 7 - one claiming he was kidnapped by US agents and the other saying he was studying in the city of Tucson in Arizona.

These videos were followed by a third a few weeks later in which the
man said he had escaped from the custody of US spies in Virginia.

US officials consistently denied Amiri's kidnapping but on Tuesday, PJ Crowley, the state department spokesman, confirmed that Washington had been in touch with him.

"The United States government has maintained contact with him," he
said, adding that Amiri "has been here for some time, I'm not going to
specify for how long".

Crowley also refused to comment on whether Amiri had provided
Washington with intelligence.

But the Washington Post, citing US officials, reported on Thursday
that Amiri was paid more than $5m by the CIA to provide information on Iran's nuclear programme.

Shrouded in mystery

Al Jazeera's Alireza Ronaghi, reporting from Tehran after attending a
news conference addressed by Amiri, said: "It seems like the Iranians have finally decided to deny the assumption that Mr Amiri had any information that could reveal anything about Iran's nuclear programme to sort of try and lift all the possibilities about Amiri's importance that could probably lead to his defection."

Our correspondent said he had talked to Amiri's wife and even she did not know whether he was alive or dead.

"So no one knew what he has been doing apart from his own claims about what he had been doing and what happened to him," Ronaghi said.

"We have no other source or no other reliable commentary to get a
climpse of what he had been doing in the last couple of months, so it
is very important for Iranian authorities to get to the bottom of it.

"Iranians have to go through very lengthy sessions with Amiri and that
has just started."

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Thursday, July 15, 2010
22:42 Mecca time, 19:42 GMT

Deaths in Iran mosque attack

Two explosions at a mosque in southeastern Iran have killed at least
20 people and injured more than 100 others in suicide attacks, Iranian officials say.

The blasts late on Thursday targeted Shia Muslim worshippers in the
predominantly Sunni city of Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchestan province, the Fars news agency quoted Iran's deputy interior minister as saying.

"Hours ago, a suicide operation was carried out in the Jamia mosque, which left several martyrs and several wounded," the agency quoted Ali Abdollahi as saying.

"The first explosion took place behind a checkpoint and a number of
Revolutionary Guard members were killed and injured because of it".

'Coordinated attacks'

Zahedan member of parliament Hossein Ali Shahriari told Fars that
there were two suicide attacks one after another, with the first one
carried out by a bomber dressed as a woman.

"The attacker, dressed in women's clothing, was trying to get in the
mosque, but was prevented" when the first blast took place, Shahriari

"When people came to rescue those hit in that blast, another bomber
blew himself up. Three to four have been killed at least in the first

Zahedan has been repeatedly hit by attacks blamed on Sunni rebel
group Jundallah (Soldiers of God), which plays on feelings of
resentment among ethnic Baluchis in the province and whose leader
Abdolmalek Rigi was hanged on June 20 after he was captured in a
dramatic operation by Iranian agents.

Soon after his death, the group vowed to avenge his execution.

Jundallah has carried out several deadly attacks in
Sistan-Baluchestan, including on the elite Revolutionary Guards.

The group says it has been fighting for nearly a decade to secure
rights for Sunni Baluchis who form a significant proportion of the
population in the province.

Source: Agencies

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