Iran angered at criticism over executions, hangs nuclear scientist for ties with U.S.

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Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iran announced on August 7 that it hanged a nuclear scientist for handing over secret information to the United States, concluding a week in which the country came under criticism for its recent execution of up to 20 people.

Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri at the Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran on July 15, 2010. / Reuters
Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri at the Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran on July 15, 2010. / Reuters

A judiciary spokesman was quoted as telling the Mizan Online news site that the scientist, Shahram Amiri, “was hanged for revealing the country’s top secrets to the enemy,” the AFP news agency reported. The dpa news agency reported that the 39-year-old was hanged on Aug. 3.

Amiri reportedly went missing in Saudi Arabia in 2009 and was detained in Iran after returning from the United States for unclear reasons. A series of video recordings showed him first claiming that he had been kidnapped by U.S. and Saudi agents, then that he was living freely in the United States, and finally announcing that he wanted to go home.

Family members had expressed fears about Amiri’s safety, saying that they had been prevented from talking to him, and hinted that he returned because relatives in Iran were being pressured.

The announcement comes after Tehran reacted angrily to criticism of the country’s recent executions of up to 20 people, which UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein described as “a grave injustice” and said followed “the application of overly broad and vague criminal charges, coupled with a disdain for the rights of the accused to due process and a fair trial.”

State media quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi on August 6 as accusing the West of meddling in internal Iranian affairs.

“While Iran is itself a victim of terrorism, it will do its best to maintain the safety of its citizens,” Ghasemi said.

Ghasemi said the 20 men in question had murdered innocent civilians and spread terror. Reports suggested that most — if not all — of those hanged over the course of a week were Sunni Muslims from the Kurdish community.

Iran, which is predominantly Shi’ite, executed at least 977 people last year, according to Amnesty International. The organization said Iran was the second most prolific executioner in the world in 2015, after China.