Kidnapped Iranian shows 'US torture wounds'

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

TEHRAN - An Iranian diplomat held in captivity for two months in Iraq appeared in public Wednesday to display wounds he said were caused by "torture" from US agents who beat him and drilled holes into his legs.

An exhausted and clearly thin Jalal Sharafi, second secretary at Iran's embassy in Baghdad, gave a highly unusual press conference in which he appeared in a wheelchair and on a serum drip flanked by a group of his doctors.

The delegation head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Iran, Peter Stocker, said earlier Sharafi had suffered serious wounds but it was impossible to confirm what had caused them.

Sharafi, who was abducted outside a branch of the Iranian state-owned Bank Melli in Baghdad on February 4, said after his return to Tehran that he was tortured "day and night" and interrogated by CIA officials.

Washington has denied any role in the detention of Sharafi, freed on April 3 amid the standoff between London and Tehran over the captured British sailors, who were released the next day.

Sharafi said that during the ordeal an "American came. First he had a peaceful message but then when I did not answer his baseless accusations he and the Iraqi translator started beating me."

"Then they brought on a machine to drill holes into my feet. But this happened 50 days ago so the wounds have partly healed," said Sharafi, who was whisked to the news conference in an ambulance.

Asked whether his interrogators were CIA operatives, Sharafi said: "Someone came to me saying he was an American from the embassy and was in charge of my case."

Sharafi said that he was beaten and kicked for the first eight days of his kidnapping and then interrogated, during which time his legs were tied together and he was beaten with a cable on the feet and the back.

He said he was quizzed over Iran's alleged support for insurgents in Iraq, the five Iranian officials detained by the United States in Iraq and Tehran's relationship with Iraqi Kurdish leaders.

Sharafi's dermatologist Ali Reza Ali Hosseini told reporters it that the "bruises had come from a continuous pressure."

State television earlier showed footage of Sharafi in hospital, his feet badly bruised and body covered by sensors as he was visited by the ICRC's Stocker and Iraq's ambassador to Iran, Mohammed Majid al-Sheikh.

Stocker said it was clear Sharafi had suffered grievous wounds but denied claims by state television that the ICRC had confirmed after the meeting with the diplomat that Sharafi had been tortured.

"I saw wounds, on the back and feet, which were several weeks old and I could see that they were very serious," he told AFP.

"But in these circumstances we cannot confirm how these wounds were carried out."

Iranian television said the footage "showed that after the Iranian diplomat was kidnapped in Baghdad by American forces, he was beaten and savagely tortured."

White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe unequivocally denied the United States was involved in any way in his abduction.

"The United States was not involved in his detention, and any suggestion of torture is baseless," Johndroe said.

Tehran's accusations of torture against Washington are just the latest example of spiralling tensions between the two foes. Tehran is also furious the United States has not released its five officials being held in Iraq.

04/11/2007 18:33 GMT

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