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'Shahram Amiri: The Movie' -- 'Politico'

Laura Rozen of 'Politico' recounts RFE/RL's Golnaz Esfandiari's interview with Amir Farshad Ebrahimi.


Shahram Amiri: The Movie

By Laura Rozen | Politico

July 22, 2010

An Iranian production company has hired scriptwriters to develop a film about Shahram Amiri, the Iranian scientist who turned up at Iran’s interest section in Washington last week claiming he’d been kidnapped and wanted to return to Iran. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Amirhossein Ashtiyanipour, a director at an Iranian production company called Sima Film, told Agence-France Presse that a "young group of movie school graduates" had been hired to write the script. The project was confirmed by Fars news agency, which called the affair a "disgraceful defeat" for the American intelligence services. ….

Both Washington and Tehran claim Amiri was collecting valuable information for them on the other, causing speculation that Amiri could have been a double agent.

The movie deal is good news for Amiri, who may find himself in an awkward position with authorities once his 15 minutes have ended. …

Separately, this week an Iranian journalist and former member of Iran’s Basij militia who previously sought refuge in Europe, Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, told RFE/RL that Amiri had contacted him from Medina, Saudi Arabia, in June 2009 seeking help getting asylum in the United States.

Ebrahimi had reportedly been involved in helping former Iranian deputy defense minister Ali Reza Asgari defect to the West in late 2006.

Amiri "told me he was in Medina staying at a friend's house,” Ebrahimi told RFE/RL's Golnaz Esfandiari.

“He said he had a laptop with him with a memory of 500, 600 [gigabytes] of information, and he claimed that the information he had was explosive," Ebrahimi, who published what he said was Amiri's e-mail correspondence with him on his Farsi-language blog, told RFE/RL. "He didn't give me much detail. He just said that he had information about the nuclear issue.”

“He kept saying that his life was in danger, that they were after him and that he was also facing financial problems," Ebrahimi continued.

“I e-mailed Amiri and ... told him that he can either go to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh or to the U.S. consulate in Medina,” Ebrahimi continued. “He asked who he should contact. … He sounded very happy and that was the last time we spoke and I have not had any contact with him since. I just heard later that he had been taken to a safe location.”

Ebrahimi told RFE/RL he allegedly met with a U.S. intelligence official about Amiri in Bangkok in January. But Ebrahimi said the whole episode including Amiri’s abrupt return to Iran last week left him with the impression that Amiri was unlikely to have been an Iranian agent posing as a defector, as some reports this week from Iran have suggested.

“It is possible that he betrayed our confidence and pretended he was a dissident to make it to the U.S.,” Ebrahimi said. “But at the same time, if he really was an Iranian agent he could have stayed in the U.S. longer and provided the U.S. with false information.”

Laura Rozen is a foreign policy writer for 'Politico'