The mystery of an Iranian nuclear scientist who Iran says was kidnapped and tortured last year by American agents deepened Tuesday,as Iran publicised what it called a videotaped statement from him that proved its claim. That videotape was contradicted by a second videotape posted on the Internet in which a man who identified himself as the same scientist said he was studying in the US.
The rival videos that claimed to show the scientist,Shahram Amiri,32,emerged on the eve of an expected UN Security Council vote on a new set of economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. Iran has accused the US of extracting information about its programme from Amiri.
The US has never acknowledged Amiris existence,much less admitted to having any role in his disappearance. But a US official said the very fact that the video released by Iran showed someone talking over an Internet connection would suggest that he was not being held under duress.
The US doesnt force people to defect or hold them here if they do, the official said. Thats ridiculous. The official added: Does anyone really believe that someone supposedly held captive has Internet access and the ability to make and send videos?
Amiri vanished during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia a year ago. He worked at the Malek Ashtar University,an institution linked to the Revolutionary Guards. ABC News reported on March 30 that Amiri had defected to the US,citing current and former CIA officials. But Iranian authorities said on Tuesday that the video it publicised was the first document that proved Amiri had been abducted.
In the Iranian video of Amiri,an announcer identified a young man talking in Persian through a computer phone hookup,as Amiri. He said he had been kidnapped in a joint operation involving the CIA and the Saudi intelligence service in Medina on June 3,2009. The announcer said that he could not disclose how the video was obtained.
The second video,which was released shortly afterward on YouTube,showed a young man,slightly more overweight than the man in the first video,who also identified himself as Amiri. He said in Persian that he was free and safe in the US and was working on his PhD. He also demanded an end to what he called faux videos about himself,saying he had no interest in politics or experience in nuclear weapons programmes.