Iran executes a nuclear scientist for spying after unfair trial

July 15, 2010, Shahram Amiri, an Iranian nuclear scientist holds his son Amir Hossein at the Imam Khomeini airport after returning from the United States. Iranian officials said he was executed after being sentenced to death

Last week Iran executed a nuclear scientist on charges of spying for the United States, an official said Sunday, while his mother said that he was killed for a crime he didn’t commit.

Shahram Amiri leapt to the global spotlight in 2010 when he claimed first that U.S. agents had abducted him and then that he was in the United States of his own free will.

The same year, he returned to Iran where he was welcomed as a hero but then detained and tried on charges that he divulged nuclear secrets.

Officials admitted for the first time that Shahram Amiri had been secretly detained and tried. A judicial spokesman said a court sentenced Amiri to death. Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the sentence.

The spokesman said, “Amiri gave vital information about the country to the enemy,” according to Iran’s official news agency IRNA.

Shahram Amiri, 38, was a university researcher who worked for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization. He is said to have left Iran for Saudi Arabia in 2009 to visit Muslim holy places. However, he disappeared and went to the United States.

While in the U.S., Amiri appeared in several videos. The AP news agency reported that the videos gave contradictory information about why he was in America.

In one video, Amiri said that he had been kidnapped and that Saudi and U.S. intelligence agents held him against his will. In another, he said he wanted to study in America and return to Iran if the “opportunity of safe travel” became available. His wife and son remained in Iran.

U.S. officials said they paid Amiri $5 million to leave Iran and provide information about its nuclear program. At the time, Western countries were increasing efforts to limit Iran’s nuclear program under then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In 2010, Amiri reportedly went to the Pakistani Embassy in Washington and asked to be returned to Iran. He returned later that year.

Amiri’s mother statement

“When I was saying goodbye to him before his execution, he told me not to be sad as he had done nothing wrong,” Marzieh Amiri, Shahram’s mother, said.

“He asked me to tell everyone that he was innocent. He was saying his conscience was clear,” she said.

Her son’s closed-door trial was unfair and he was not properly represented, she said. She did not know the full name of the lawyer, who as a result could not be reached for comment.

“They should have held a public trial,” she said. “I am not angry with the government or the Supreme Leader (of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei). I am angry with extremist security forces who were on his case, trying to prove he was a spy and who maybe forced him to confess to things he hadn’t done.”

Marzieh Amiri said her son was free on his return and even took a vacation in Iran with his family. “But one day they suddenly arrested him … When we followed up, (the security forces) said, ‘It’s for his own protection. He is our guest’.”

He was held in isolation in Tehran, his mother said. His wife filed for divorce, and he became nervous and suffered from high blood pressure

“His loneliness was killing him,” she said, adding she visited him once or twice a month. “He told me he prefers to die as he could not tolerate the isolation any more.”

Last week, officials brought his corpse to Kermanshah. Rope marks on his neck indicated he had been hanged, his mother said.