Tuesday 28 January 2020

Nuclear scientist who defected to US executed by Iran

Scientist: Shahram Amiri. Photo: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/File Photo
Scientist: Shahram Amiri. Photo: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/File Photo

Nasser Karimi

Iran has admitted executing a nuclear scientist who defected to the US and returned to the Islamic republic under mysterious circumstances a year later.

An Iranian official acknowledged for the first time that his nation had secretly detained, tried and convicted a man who authorities had once heralded as a hero.

Shahram Amiri vanished in 2009 while on a religious pilgrimage to Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia, only to reappear a year later in a series of contradictory online videos filmed in the US. He then walked into the Pakistani Embassy in Washington and demanded to be sent home.

In interviews, Amiri described being kidnapped and held against his will by Saudi and American spies, while US officials said he was to receive millions of dollars for his help in understanding Iran's contested nuclear programme.

He was hanged the same week as Tehran executed a group of militants, a year after his country agreed to a landmark accord to limit uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhosein Mohseni Ejehi said Amiri was convicted of spying charges in a death-sentence case upheld by an appeals court.

"This person who had access to the country's secret and classified information had been linked to our hostile and No. 1 enemy, America, the Great Satan," Ejehi said.

"He provided the enemy with vital and secret information [about] the country."

Ejehi did not explain why authorities never announced Amiri's conviction, though he said Amiri had access to lawyers.

News about Amiri, born in 1977, has been scant since his return to Iran.

Last year, his father Asgar Amiri told the BBC's Farsi-language service that his son had been held at a secret site. Ejehi said Amiri's family mistakenly believed he received only a 10-year prison sentence.

On Tuesday, Iran announced it had executed a number of criminals, describing them mainly as militants from the country's Kurdish minority.

Irish Independent

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