ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
NPR's Jackie Northam has the story.
JACKIE NORTHAM: Iran complained he was taken by the CIA and possibly Saudi Arabia's intelligence service. The U.S. disputed the claim but wouldn't say anything about Amiri and there was no word from the scientist himself - that is until just recently when a video surfaced. In it, Amiri looks disheveled and speaks nervously in Farsi, his mother tongue, and backs up Iran's claims that he was kidnapped.
SHAHRAM AMIRI: (Through translator) For the eight months that I've been held here, I've come under the worst torture and psychological pressure from America's intelligence agencies. Their goal with the torture and the pressure was to get me to agree to do an interview with an American television network, to say that I'm an Iranian nuclear scientist who sought asylum here, and brought important documents and a laptop with proof of Iran's nuclear weapons work.
NORTHAM: Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian specialist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says had Amiri been abducted by the CIA, it's unlikely he would have had the freedom to make videos on the Internet saying he was abducted by the CIA. Sadjadpour says more likely, he was saying that to help his wife and 7-year-old son back in Iran.
KARIM SADJADPOUR: His wife and child were not allowed to leave Iran to join him in the United States. And they were apparently under tremendous pressure by the Iranian government.
NORTHAM: Shortly after the first video of Amiri appeared, another one was released on the Internet. This one looked professionally produced with good lighting. Amiri is smartly dressed and appears to be reading from a script. He says he's attending a university in Arizona.
AMIRI: (Through translator) My agenda while I'm here in America is to simply work on my Ph.D. in health physics. After I'm finished, as long as I'm able to travel safely, I'm hoping that my studies here will help Iranians and the international scientific and university communities.
NORTHAM: Amiri said he's safe and he's free to move around the country. The Carnegie's Sadjadpour says that's not unusual. He says Iran's nuclear program is highly compartmentalized. Amiri is a young junior scientist who probably doesn't have access to top state secrets about the program. Sadjadpour says Amiri isn't as big a fish as other Iranian officials who have defected to the U.S. over the years.
SADJADPOUR: The case of a senior Revolutionary Guard's liaison with Hezbollah who defected in 2006 and hasn't been heard from since, I imagine he's under very tight surveillance. But I think someone like Shahram Amiri, after they're initially debriefed by U.S. officials, then eventually they're allowed to live their lives. They're not going to be under surveillance for the next several decades.
NORTHAM: U.S. State Department spokesman PJ Crowley says the U.S. will not stop him.
PJ CROWLEY: The United States government has maintained contact with him. I can't tell you specifically when he made this decision to return to Iran, but he's here of his free will and he's - this is his decision to depart. And we are helping to facilitate that departure.
NORTHAM: Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.
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