Iran executes nuclear scientist involved in U.S. spy mystery

Amiri with his son in 2010

Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, has confirmed on Sunday that Iran has executed a nuclear scientist who gave the U.S. intelligence about the country’s contested nuclear program.
The agency quoted a spokesman for the Iranian judiciary, Gholamhosein Mohseni Ejehi, as confirming the execution of Shahram Amiri.

He said Amiri “provided the enemy with vital information of the country.”

U.S. officials in 2010 said they paid Amiri some $5 million to defect and provide “significant” information about Iran’s atomic program, they even promised him to remain in the US for his safety but Amiri later fled the U.S. without the money.

Amiri, who worked for a university affiliated to Iran’s defense ministry, vanished in 2009 while on a religious pilgrimage to Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia, only to reappear a year later in a set of online videos filmed in the U.S.

Iranian officials previously touted Amiri’s claim he had been abducted by U.S. agents while on a pilgrimage to holy sites in Saudi Arabia. He then walked into the Iranian interests section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington and demanded to be sent home, where they welcomed him home in 2010 as a hero in Tehran.

In an email published among the trove of messages originally on Hilary Clinton’s private server, top Clinton adviser Jake Sullivan expressed concern about how Amiri’s story would play in the media.

“The gentleman you have talked to [top State Department official] Bill Burns about has apparently gone to his country’s interests section because he is unhappy with how much time it has taken to facilitate his departure,” Sullivan wrote.

“This could lead to problematic news stories in the next 24 hours. Will keep you posted.”

Another email, written by energy envoy Richard Morningstar and sent days earlier, portrayed Amiri as having psychological problems.

“Per the subject we discussed, we have a diplomatic, ‘psychological’ issue, not a legal issue.” “Our friend has to be given a way out. We should recognize his concerns and frame it in terms of a misunderstanding with no malevolent intent and that we will make sure there is no recurrence. Our person won’t be able to do anything anyway. If he has to leave, so be it.”

When he arrived back in Iran, he held his son, then age 7, in his arms as he faced a bank of microphones.

Now, a year after his country agreed to a landmark accord to limit uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions, he has reportedly been hanged without any official word on his case.

Earlier foreign media reports cited Amiri’s mother saying her son had been executed by Iran.

“I am a simple researcher who was working in the university,”

Amiri said on his return to Tehran in July 2010. “I’m not involved in any confidential jobs. I had no classified information.”

On Tuesday, Iran announced it had executed a number of criminals, describing them mainly as militants from the country’s Kurdish minority. Then, according to Iranian pro-reform daily, Shargh, an obituary notice circulated Amiri’s hometown of Kermanshah, a city some 500 kilometers (310 miles) southwest of Tehran, announcing a memorial service on Thursday and calling him a “bright moon” and “invaluable gem.”

It is unclear what would have prompted Iranian authorities to execute Amiri, years after his first disappearance

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