TEHRAN, Iran – An Iranian nuclear scientist claimed today that he suffered extreme mental and physical torture at the hands of U.S. interrogators after disappearing last year, adding to Tehran’s allegations he was abducted by American agents.
The U.S. says he was a willing defector who changed his mind and decided to board a plane home from Washington.
A U.S. newspaper reported that the CIA paid the scientist $5 million to provide intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. The Washington Post said in its online edition late Wednesday that the scientist, Shahram Amiri, had been working for the CIA for more than a year.
Amiri was embraced by his family – including his tearful 7-year-old son – after arriving in Tehran in the latest spectacle of a puzzling series of events that left Iran and Washington with starkly different accounts. Amiri flashed a V-for-victory sign as he stepped into the terminal.
Iran has portrayed the return of Amiri as a blow to American intelligence services that were desperate for inside information on Iran’s nuclear program.
Washington described the 32-year-old Amiri as someone who reached out to U.S. officials but has offered few other details.
Speaking to journalists after a flight via Qatar, Amiri repeated his earlier claims that he was snatched while on a pilgrimage last year in the Saudi holy city of Medina and carried off to the United States.
He claimed he was under intense pressures during the first few months after his alleged kidnapping.
“I was under the harshest mental and physical torture,” he said at Tehran’s international airport, with his young son sitting on his lap.
He also alleged that Israeli agents were present during the interrogations and that CIA officers offered him $50 million to remain in America. He gave no further details to back up the claims.
He sought to downplay his role in Iran’s nuclear program – which Washington and allies fear could be used to create atomic weapons.
“I am a simple researcher who was working in the university,” he said.