09242017Headline:

Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri executed by hanging

Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who returned to Iran in 2010 after he allegedly defected to the United States and provided "significant information" about the country's nuclear program, has been executed by hanging. He was reportedly tried for treason.

Amiri mysteriously disappeared in June 2009 during a pilgrimage to the Saudi city of Mecca. Videos surfaced a year later in which Amiri claimed to have been abducted by the Central Intelligence Agency and he showed up at the Iranian interests section in D.C. just weeks later, claiming to have escaped.

Amiri returned to Iran in July 2010 and received a hero's welcome, telling the media that he had been under "serious mental duress and interrogation" at the hands of the CIA to reveal information about Iran's nuclear program. But the U.S. denied the claims, saying Amiri had voluntarily defected and later chose to leave.

Iranian media abruptly stopped covering Amiri's story soon after he returned and plans for a movie were scrapped, but reports surfaced in 2011 that he had been arrested and would be tried for treason. His fate remained unknown until Saturday, when Amiri's family confirmed he had been executed.

On Sunday, judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei told Iran's IRNA news agency that Amiri, who had access to top secret information, had been convicted after providing the United States with "vital information" about Iran. He did not specify the charges Amiri was convicted of.

"The CIA thought that its movements were kept away from the eye of Iran's intelligence ministry. They took Amiri to Saudi Arabia, thinking that we are not aware of," the spokesman was quoted as saying, claiming that Iran had in fact closely monitored the alleged plot.

Many details about what happened remain unclear as Amiri publicly maintained to have been kidnapped by the CIA, claiming that the United States had offered him $50 million if he chose to stay in the U.S., as well as $10 million for an interview with CNN to say he had voluntarily defected to the U.S.

The United States, for its part, initially kept quiet about Amiri but later said he had provided "significant information" during his stay in the United States. Amiri, who was a specialist in radiation safety, is said to have provided the CIA with information about secret research projects and facilities.

"He was free to come and he was free to go, and he made his choice to go back. That was honored by the United States, and really that's all I have to say," then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during an interview in July 2010. She declined to say whether Amiri had been paid by the United States.

The Iranian government initially protested the alleged abduction but did not pursue the matter, even though it had said it would so. At one point, Iran's Fars news agency claimed that Amiri had provided Iran with "very valuable" information about the CIA, essentially casting him as a double agent who was in contact with Iranian intelligence during his stay in the U.S.

Ray Takeyh, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted in an interview with the New York Times in 2010 that regardless of the truth, Amiri's future looked bleak as Iran would have to consider the possibility that Amiri was a double agent acting on behalf of the United States.

"Who would trust him enough to let him inside the program again?" Takeyh told the newspaper, noting that Soviet spy Vitaly Yurchenko was interrogated for years after he returned to the country to determine what he knew and, more importantly, what he told the Americans.

"My impression is that he will be around for a year or so [but then] I don't think it's going to turn out well for him. They have to establish to other potential defectors that there is a cost to be paid," Takeyh said in the interview.

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