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Missing Iranian Scientist Appears In Another Mysterious Video


A screen grab from Shahram Amiri's latest online appearance

A screen grab from Shahram Amiri's latest online appearance

A new video has surfaced in which a man who identifies himself as Shahram Amiri, an Iranian nuclear scientist who went missing about a year ago during a trip to Saudi Arabia, says he is being held in the United States against his will.

Amiri says he has fled from U.S. security officials and recorded the video in a “safe place” in Virginia. He also warns that he could be killed for refusing to betray his country.

“I call on [Iran’s] officials and human rights groups to increase their activities and pressure on the U.S. government for my release, and allow me to return to my dear country Iran before anything happens to me.”

This is the third video featuring Amiri released in recent weeks.

The U.S. television network ABC reported in March that Amiri had defected to the United States and was assisting the CIA in efforts to undermine Iran’s nuclear activities. But Tehran maintains that Amiri was kidnapped by U.S. authorities.

In the first video aired on Iranian state television, Amiri said he had been kidnapped from Saudi Arabi and held against his will by the United States. In the second video, released within hours on YouTube, Amiri said he is happily studying in the United States and hopes to return home after obtaining his PhD.

In this latest video, Amiri identifies the date as Monday, June 14, 2010. “I have been able to escape from U.S. security agents. I’m recording this video in a safe location. I could be arrested again by U.S. security agents,” Amiri says.

He then says that the first video, released by Iran’s state-controlled television, is “totally authentic and does not contain any lies.”

“But the second video that was released by the U.S. government and posted on YouTube is not true -- it is a lie,” he says. “I am not free here and I don’t have the permission to contact my family and other people.”

Amiri says that the U.S. government should be held responsible if anything happens to him.

“My last word is to my dear family; I want them to know that if I don’t return home alive, they should know that I resisted until the last moment and did not betray my country. No pressure by the U.S. government made me betray my country and I was proudly killed for my country,” he says.

In the latest video, Amiri’s lips don’t seem to match the soundtrack. Either the sound is delayed, or it has been edited to add different audio to the image.

ABC reports that the Iranian government has threatened to harm Amiri’s family unless he returns home. The TV network says it has obtained the information “through people in the intelligence community briefed by the CIA.”

The ABC report reads: “Behind the scenes, the situation has become so grave that American officials fear Amiri could re-defect, according to the people briefed on the situation.”

The television network says Amiri made the first video after Iranian agents threatened to harm his son:

“According to the two current U.S. officials, Amiri called home earlier this year because he missed his family. On a second call, Iranian intelligence answered and threatened to harm his son, unless he taped an Internet video saying he'd been kidnapped. Amiri, fearing for his family, agreed, according to a person briefed on the case.”

US and Iranian officials have not yet reacted to the ABC report and Amiri’s third video, which deepens the mystery regarding his fate.

The latest development poses many questions: If Amiri is being held against his will, how did he manage to escape and record the new video and post it on YouYube? How did he manage to send the first video to Iran? If he’s studying in the United States, why didn’t he bring his family? Didn't he realize before defecting that he would jeopardize his family by leaving them behind in Iran? Is he lying in all three released videos to protect his wife and young son?

Last week, Iran’s state television aired an interview with a woman identified as Amir’s wife who appealed for international help to bring her husband home.

If the war of videos continues, then we can most likely expect another clip in which Amiri says he is freely studying in the United States.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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