Working as a nuclear scientist in Iran may just be the most stressful job in the world. One persistent risk is that some variation of the Stuxnet virus will cripple your infrastructure and lead to an uncontrolled nuclear explosion, courtesy of Israeli or US intelligence. A second risk is being blown up (allegedly by the CIA) while driving your car. A third is simply being executed by your employer.
That's what happened to Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri, who was executed over the weekend after a court convicted him of spying for Washington, a spokesman for the judiciary said on Sunday cited by Reuters. "Through his connection with the United States, Amiri gave vital information about the country to the enemy," Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said quoted by IRNA.
Amiri, a university researcher working for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, disappeared during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in 2009. He soon resurfaced in the US with a video where he accused the CIA of kidnapping and interrogating him. The US authorities at that time maintained he had defected of his own free will and provided them with “useful information”. He then returned to Iran in 2010 and received a hero's welcome... before being arrested and was given a long prion sentence. A U.S. official said in 2010 that Washington had received "useful information" from Amiri.
A timeline of his disappearance and reappearance:
- May or June 2009 - Shahram Amiri disappears after going on pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
- June 2010: emergence of videos apparently recorded in the US where a man alleged to be Amiri says he has been kidnapped and put under pressure to co-operate with the CIA
- 13 July 2010: Amiri reappears in Washington DC at the Iranian interests section of Pakistan's embassy, seeking to return to Iran.
- 15 July 2010: Amiri resurfaces in Iran where he is welcomed by officials and family members.
- May 2011: Amiri is arrested and reportedly tried for treason.
- August 2016: Amiri's family announces he has been executed, apparently by hanging.
Iran had accused the CIA of kidnapping Amiri. U.S. officials said Amiri had been free to come and go as he pleased, and that he may have returned because of pressures on his family in Iran. Amiri had denied this, saying "my family had no problems". In a video aired by Iranian state TV in 2010, Amiri said he had fled from U.S. agents.
News of his execution emerged on Saturday, when Amiri's mother said the body had been handed over with rope marks around his neck.
If the US indeed had at least one "inside man" within the US nuclear research apparatus, and thus a clear view into Iran's full development capacity, it may explain Obama's willingness to push through his landmark Iran "nuclear deal" which has become one of the defining features of his administration, one which however has led to some notable friction in recent days following revelations that Obama paid $400 million in cash in what was allegedly a ransom payment to free 4 US hostages held by Iran.