Iran scientist says US wanted `spy` swap for detained hikers

An Iranian scientist, who returned home last week, has said that they had pressed him to agree to be exchanged in a "spy" swap for three US hikers in custody in Tehran.

Tehran: An Iranian scientist, who returned
home last week charging he had been held by US agents for more
than a year, has said that they had pressed him to agree to be
exchanged in a "spy" swap for three US hikers in custody in

In a lengthy interview aired by state television late on
Saturday, Shahram Amiri claimed that the US agents had
acknowledged that the three Americans, detained on the
Iran-Iraq border in July last year, were indeed "spies".

Challenged by the interviewer about the agents`
description of the trio, who have consistently maintained that
they were on a hiking holiday, Amiri insisted: "That is the
term they used."

Washington has repeatedly called on Tehran to release
Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27,
insisting that they were holidaymakers who had innocently
strayed across an unmarked border.

US media have questioned whether the three were even in
Iranian territory at the time of their arrest.

Iranian officials have raised the possibility of trying
the trio for espionage, but no official charges have been
announced, and the affair has become an added irritant to
already tense US-Iranian relations.

Amiri returned to Tehran on Thursday just over a year
after he mysteriously disappeared from the Saudi city of
Medina while on a pilgrimage.

He had resurfaced at the Iranian interests section in the
Pakistani embassy in Washington maintaining that he had been
kidnapped by US agents and held against his will.

Amiri said in the interview that the "spy swap" offer
emerged after US agents holding him discovered he had been in
touch with Iranian agents while in the United States.

"They (US agents) wanted me to say that `I was an Iranian
intelligence agent infiltrating the CIA`", Amiri said.

"If I said this, they said I could be part of a spy
exchange programme, whereby I could be handed over to Iran in
return for the three American spies arrested near the Iraqi

In previous interviews Amiri has said he was kidnapped at
gunpoint by two Farsi speaking agents of the US Central
Intelligence Agency in Medina.

US officials have repeatedly denied that Amiri was
abducted, insisting he was in the United States of his own
free will while acknowledging that Washington "had been in
contact with him" during his stay.


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