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IRAN: Conflicting videos raise questions over missing scientist

June 9, 2010 |  7:40 am

Will the real Shahram Amiri please stand up, or at least upload something?

Two contradictory videos have surfaced within days of each other, both claiming to reveal the truth of what happened to Amiri, the Iranian scientist who disappeared last year and reportedly defected to the United States.

Picture 21 The first video, shown on Iranian state television Monday, claimed to depict Amiri recounting his kidnapping and torture by American intelligence forces in Tucson, where he says he is being kept against his will.

In the second video, posted on YouTube one day later, Amiri, or someone who looks just like him, says he is in the United States to pursue a doctorate and hopes to return to Iran after completing his studies.

Neither tape has been verified, leaving the world to speculate about the authenticity of both tapes and the possible motives behind making them. Did the Iranians forge Amiri's plea for help? Was Amiri a victim of extraordinary rendition? Did he get bored in witness protection? Is he lying on one or both tapes to protect his family in Iran?

The theories are endless, and the tapes offer little in the way of answers.

"During the eight months that I was kept in America, I was subject to the most severe tortures and psychological pressures by the American intelligence investigation groups," Amiri says in the first video, appearing to speak into a web camera.

"The main aim from this was to impose political pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran and in fact condemning [Iran] and proving lies that America has been constantly saying against the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Amiri goes on to say he was kidnapped and calls on international organizations to take up his case.

Some analysts have pointed out that the grainy quality of the video, which was released by the Iranian government, does not match the studio-quality sound, raising suspicions that the tape is fake or altered.

Picture 19 The second video is more formal, but no less bizarre. Amiri appears to be sitting in a study, with a globe and chess board set up behind him, delivering a statement in which he denies that he is being held in the U.S. against his will.

"I do not hold any political views and have no interest in the political subjects and discussions of any state and country," he says.

"I am not involved in weapons research and have no experience and knowledge in this field," he continues, adding that he intends to get a doctorate in health physics so that he can help "increase health standards in Iran and worldwide."

Amiri disappeared last year while on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and was widely reported to have defected to the United States. Iran has denied this version, maintaining that Amiri was kidnapped by American intelligence agencies.

The release of the two videos coincides with the anniversary of the disputed Iranian presidential elections, which led to widespread unrest throughout the country. The government continues to treat the opposition as a threat and has tightened security in recent weeks in anticipation of more protests.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Video: Al Jazeera English reports on the two conflicting tapes. Credit: Al Jazeera English via YouTube.

Screenshots, top and bottom: Two videos, one aired on Iranian state television and the other uploaded to YouTube, purportedly show Amiri. In neither case has the identity of the man been verified.

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