Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Shahram Amiri’s Strange Escape and Return! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Shahram Amiri received in Tehran’s Airport. AFP

The story of Iranian dissident Shahram Amiri is still unclear.

Why did he return to Iran from the United States if he really had important secrets that exposed his life to threats?

Why did Iranian officials receive him with warm and extensive media coverage at the airport if they had evil plans for him?

Why did they arrest him for treason after celebrating him at the airport as a respectable patriot?
Why did they sentence him to 10 years in jail and then execute him?

There are large Iranian communities outside Iran and most of them enjoy good education and economic status. The majority of them either chose to live in exile or was born there.

They refuse to return or even to visit their country because they do not trust the regime, which greatly resembles the totalitarian governments of the Middle East such as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s and the late Libyan Leader Muammar Qaddafi’s.

The number of Iranians in exile is estimated to amount to five million, the world’s largest number of exiles by choice.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians fled following the 1970’s revolution, and thousands continue to leave.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) ranks Iran among the top countries suffering from brain drain annually.

It seems that Amiri was banned from traveling because of the sensitive nature of his job as a nuclear scientist.

This is why he exploited Hajj season to escape supervision, and he headed from Saudi Arabia to the United States.

Iranians accused Saudi Arabia of his disappearance since it took place on its land; however, the Kingdom responded that it is not responsible for monitoring pilgrims and does not have the right to force them to choose their travel destinations.

When Iranian officials claimed that Amiri was kidnapped in Saudi Arabia, he appeared publicly in the United States and said he was there on his own accord.

He later surprised everyone when he appeared at the Pakistani Embassy and spoke on TV, claiming he was detained and prohibited from traveling to Iran.

Due to this embarrassing situation, U.S. Secretary of State, back then, Hillary Clinton said Amiri willingly came to the United States and could leave whenever he wants to.

He returned to Tehran and was received by officials in the airport. His return was depicted as a victory, yet he was arrested few days later, tried and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Nevertheless, his family says he was executed five years later and buried in Kermanshah.

Most probably, the reason behind his contradictory statements and weird behavior is that Tehran threatened to murder his family if he did not return. It allegedly threatened to murder his son, who was next to him at the press conference in Tehran.

It is understood why Iran lied initially by saying that Amiri was not a significant figure or a nuclear scientist as he claimed, but they then said he was an intelligence officer who deceived the Americans and convinced them he was a nuclear scientist to learn what U.S. intelligence was doing with defectors.

All these lies are understandable, however what is not understandable is why did they celebrate him upon his return as a loyal patriot then quickly detain him?

Why was he executed when the judiciary sentenced him to prison?

The Iranian spokesperson did not convince anyone when he said Amiri deserved to be punished because he provided Americans’ with Iran’s confidential and vital information.

Did imprisoning and executing him aim at frightening Iranians and deterring frequent information leaks? Especially that many secrets of Iran’s nuclear facilities and military activities have been voluntarily exposed by employees of these institutions.