Iranian Nuclear Scientist Shahram Amiri Showed Up Today At The Pakistani Embassy In Washington Claiming To Have Been Held By American Agents For Past Year

WASHINGTON/TEHRAN (Reuters) – An Iranian nuclear scientist missing for more than a year turned up in Washington on Tuesday, claiming to have been kidnapped but U.S. officials denied that they held him against his will or mistreated him.

Iran, which is locked in a standoff with the United States and other Western nations over its suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons, has repeatedly accused the CIA of abducting Shahram Amiri, who worked for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.

Amiri, who vanished during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia more than a year ago, mysteriously appeared at the Iranian interests section of Pakistan’s embassy.

“My kidnapping was a disgraceful act for America … I was under enormous psychological pressure and supervision of armed agents in the past 14 months,” Amiri, who is in his thirties, was quoted as saying in a phone interview with Iran’s state TV.

In a series of recent videos, a man claiming to be Amiri has variously claimed to have been kidnapped and tortured, to be have been studying in the United States and to have fled U.S. “agents” and has asked human rights groups to help him return to Iran.

“Amiri has been escorted by American forces to Iran’s interests section in Washington,” Iran’s PressTV said.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters Amiri was not held in the United States against his will, was free to leave whenever he wished, and that he was unaware of any mistreatment of the Iranian he was in America.

“Mr. Amiri is free to come and go as he chooses and he is choosing to return to Iran,” Crowley said at a hastily convened briefing. “I have no information to suggest that he has been mistreated while he has been in the United States.”

The Amiri case has fueled speculation that he may have valuable intelligence about the Iranian nuclear program that the Americans may want.

“Mr. Amiri has been in the United States of his own free will and has decided to return to Iran of his own free will,” said another U.S. official, adding Amiri is awaiting documents from a third country through which he plans to travel to Iran.

Amiri surfaced after a Cold War-style spy swap which took place in Vienna on Friday when 10 people charged in the United States with being Russian agents were exchanged for four held in Russia on charges of spying for the West.

Iran and the United States severed diplomatic ties after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Under the umbrella of the Pakistani embassy, the interests section, which is staffed by Iranians, provides consular services including information on travel visas.

(Additional reporting by Ramin Mostafavi in Tehran, Zeeshan Haider in Islamabad and Tabassum Zakaria in Washington, Writing by Parisa Hafezi and Arshad Mohammed, Editing by Sandra Maler)

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