Iran: Iran executes nuclear scientist who leaked secrets to US

Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri flashes the victory sign as he arrives at the Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran on July 15, 2010

By Asa Fith and Aresu Eqbali/ The Wall Street Journal

Iran has executed a nuclear scientist it convicted of divulging state secrets to the US, its judiciary said. Shahram Amiri had earlier been sentenced to death by a lower court, judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejehi told the official Islamic Republic News Agency. The sentence was “confirmed and carried out,” he said. Shahram Amiri, who disappeared and re-emerged in the US in 2010, was sentenced to death by a lower court.

“By establishing contact with the US, Amiri gave the country’s vital information to the enemy,” he added. He didn’t elaborate on what specific secrets Mr. Amiri was convicted of divulging. A BBC Persian report citing Mr. Amiri’s mother said the scientist’s body was returned to his family with rope marks suggesting he had been hanged. The report couldn’t immediately be independently verified.

A spokeswoman for the US State Department declined to comment. The convoluted ordeal that ended with Mr. Amiri’s execution took place during a period of heightened concern in the US and other Western countries that Iran was expanding its nuclear program and seeking to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran last year reached a deal with six world powers including the US to curtail its nuclear activities and submit to outside monitoring, in exchange for the removal of international sanctions.

Iranian officials have said the nuclear program is for peaceful research and power generation, and was never intended to produce a warhead. The 38-year-old Mr. Amiri vanished in 2009 during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. He was working in research at Tehran’s Malek Ashtar University of Technology at the time.

He re-emerged in the US in 2010 under murky circumstances, when a series of videos surfaced on Iranian television and YouTube showing him talking about his life there and the circumstances of his capture. In one of the videos, he said he had been kidnapped by the CIA and Saudi intelligence and taken to the US. In another, however, he asserted he was safe and comfortable in the US.

Mr. Amiri said the US, believing he was involved in Iran’s disputed nuclear program, had offered him large amounts of money to divulge state secrets. The US denied that he had been kidnapped. US officials told The Wall Street Journal in 2010 that Mr. Amiri had been given $5 million and allowed to stay in the country in exchange for his cooperation and was told he could be executed if he returned.

Iran complained in July 2010 that Mr. Amiri was being held against his will. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said he hadn’t been forced to come to the US and was free to go. After seeking shelter at the Iranian affairs section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C., Mr. Amiri returned to Iran that month and was welcomed by his family and Iranian officials.

Upon his arrival, Mr. Amiri said he had been a low-level researcher who wasn’t involved with Iran’s disputed nuclear program and had no nuclear intelligence to offer. US officials told the Journal at the time that Mr. Amiri had cooperated with American intelligence agencies and shared sensitive information about Iran’s nuclear program. An Iranian familiar with the case said that Mr. Amiri returned to Iran only after its authorities threatened his family.

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