Abducted Iranian Nuclear Scientist Demands ‘Immediate Return’ to Iran

Nasser Karimi
Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran — A missing Iranian nuclear scientist, who Tehran claims was abducted by the U.S., has taken refuge at the Pakistani embassy in Washington and is asking to return to his homeland, Iran said Tuesday.

It was the latest development in a case that has been shrouded in mystery since the scientist, Shahram Amiri, disappeared while on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in June 2009.

Iran has repeatedly claimed that the U.S. abducted Amiri – charges the Americans deny. U.S. media reported in March that the 32-year-old scientist had defected to the U.S. and was assisting the CIA in efforts to undermine Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

Adding to the confusion, Amiri himself appeared in a series of videos giving conflicting messages, including one where he claimed he was abducted by American and Saudi agents and taken to the U.S. and another saying he was freely studying in the United States.

Iranian state television reported that Amiri entered the embassy’s office representing Iranian interest in Washington and demanded an “immediate return” to Iran. The station later reported that Amiri’s presence in the interest section, which is run by Iranian nationals, would pave the ground for his return to Iran.

Mostafa Rahmani, head of the Iranian office in Washington, said the TV report was true but would not elaborate. He said Iran’s foreign ministry would “release details later.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said that according to Rahmani, the scientist showed up around 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Iranian interest section office and has been with them since.

“We understand from Dr. Rahmani that they are making arrangements for his repatriation to Iran,” Basit told The Associated Press in Islamabad. He did not know when a transfer would occur or whether Pakistan would have a hand in making the travel arrangements.

Regardless of the circumstances, Amiri’s sudden appearance threatened to pose an embarrassment for Washington, which accuses Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons. Iran denies that and maintains that its nuclear research is for peaceful purposes.

The United Nations in early June slapped a fourth round of sanctions on Tehran over its refusal to curtain its nuclear program.

Before he disappeared, Amiri worked at Tehran’s Malek Ashtar University, an institution closely connected to the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard.

Iran’s state TV has periodically showed purported videos of Amiri claiming abduction and torture by the U.S.

One of the videos, aired in early June, showed a man wearing headphones and speaking through what appeared to be a webcam, saying he was abducted while on a pilgrimage to Medina, injected with a tranquilizer and taken to the United States.

Iran has previously hinted it would trade three American prisoners it has held since last July for a number of Iranians allegedly detained by the United States, including Amiri. An Iranian spokesman later said no such deal was in the works.

The U.S. and Iran have had no diplomatic relations following the 1979 Islamic revolution. The Pakistan embassy in Washington looks after Iranian interests in the U.S., while the Swiss represent the Americans in Tehran.


Associated Press Writer Nahal Toosi in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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