By MATTHEW COLE
Shahram Amiri, the Iranian nuclear scientist who returned to Tehran in July after what he called a "kidnapping" by the CIA, has been held in detention by Iranian authorities for two months and tortured so badly he was hospitalized, according to a dissident Iranian web site.
An article on Iranbriefing.net claims that an unnamed family source says Amiri was held in a safe house after his much-publicized return to the country. He was allowed to have supervised visits with family members before being moved to a prison in Tehran in October for interrogation.
Amiri, a professor at Tehran's Malek Ashtar University, defected to the U.S. in 2009 after funneling Iranian nuclear secrets for the CIA for several years while still inside the Iranian nuclear program, American officials told ABC News.
Amiri was a key source for the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that concluded the Iranian nuclear weaponization program had been halted after 2003, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official. The CIA began pushing Amiri to flee after publication of the NIE, said the official, because the agency feared the Iranian government would discover Amiri's role in providing the information. Amiri disappeared while on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in June 2009, and then resurfaced in the U.S., first at an apartment in Tucson, Arizona and then at an apartment in Springfield, Virginia.
But after more than a year in the U.S., Amiri claimed he had never really defected. In a series of videos released on the internet in early 2010, he insisted he had been kidnapped, drugged and tortured by the CIA. He claimed he was trying to elude U.S. agents so he could be reunited with his wife and son in Iran.
Amiri Returns To Iran
In July, Amiri showed up in Washington, D.C. at the Iranian interest section of the Pakistani embassy. Before boarding a flight back to Iran, Amiri told Iranian television he had finally escaped from the hands of U.S. intelligence, something U.S. officials said at the time he had to say to avoid being imprisoned or executed on his return to Tehran.
The article that appeared on Iranbriefing.net, a site operated by the Iran Briefing Foundation, which describes itself as a non-profit, U.S.-based human rights group, is the first purported update on Amiri's status since his return to Iran. It says he is being held in solitary confinement, and that he spent a week in a hospital because of the effects of physical and psychological torture.
At the time Amiri went back to Iran, former CIA officer Bob Baer told ABC News that it was common for defectors to have second thoughts. Baer also predicted that the Iranians would keep Amiri alive and perhaps allow him several years as "a public hero" if they wanted to sustain what Baer called "the pretense that he was kidnapped."
"After that," said Baer, "I can't tell you."