TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s state television aired what it said was footage of a missing nuclear scientist on Tuesday, the third video to emerge in weeks giving conflicting accounts of the fate of a man Tehran says was kidnapped by the CIA.
Shahram Amiri, a university researcher working for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, disappeared during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia a year ago and Tehran accused Riyadh of handing him over to the United States, which Saudi Arabia has denied.
Earlier this month Iranian television showed a first video of a man it said was Amiri. In the footage, Amiri said he had been kidnapped, taken to the United States and tortured.
However shortly after that footage, a second video appeared on the Internet, also purporting to be Amiri, in which he said he was actually studying in the United States.
“It’s ludicrous for anyone to suggest that this individual was kidnapped by the United States,” a U.S. official in Washington said on Tuesday. “If he’s able to produce videos, it defies human logic to allege that he’s somehow been held against his will by Americans.”
In Tuesday’s video, the man described as Amiri said he had fled from U.S. “agents” and was in hiding. He rejected the Internet footage as “a sheer lie,” and urged human rights groups to help him return to Iran.
“Minutes ago I managed to escape American security agents in the state of Virginia. I am now in a safe place making this video,” the man purporting to be Amiri said in the latest film.
“I could be arrested again by American security agents any minute … I am not free here and I do not have permission to contact my family or others and if anything happens to me or if I do not return to (my) country, the American government is directly responsible,” he added.
The man in all the videos looked similar to photographs of Amiri that have appeared previously in Iranian media, although none of them could be independently verified by Reuters.
Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador in Tehran earlier this month and handed over documents which it said showed Amiri had been kidnapped by the United States.
Iran has no diplomatic relations with the United States and U.S. interests in Tehran are handled by the Swiss embassy.
In March, ABC news said Amiri had defected to the United States and was helping the CIA. A CIA spokeswoman declined to comment on the U.S. network’s report.
Tehran originally refused to acknowledge Amiri’s involvement in Iran’s disputed nuclear program, which the West fears is being used to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says it is aimed at generating electricity.
Three months after Amiri’s disappearance Iran disclosed the existence of its second uranium enrichment site, further heightening tension over the Islamic state’s atomic activities.