Recently Freed Iranian Diplomat Says He Was Tortured by CIA

An Iranian diplomat freed two months after being abducted in Iraq accused the CIA of torturing him during his detention, Iranian state television reported Saturday.

Jalal Sharafi, who was freed on Tuesday, said the CIA questioned him about Iran's relations with Iraq and assistance to various Iraqi groups, according to state television.

"Once they heard my response that Iran merely has official relations with the Iraqi government and officials, they intensified tortures and tortured me through different methods days and nights," state TV quoted Sharafi as saying.

The claim could not immediately be independently verified.

But a White House spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, who was with U.S. president George W. Bush in Texas on Saturday, said, "The United States had nothing to do with Mr. Sharafi's detention and we welcome his return to Iran."

A U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the CIA vehemently denies any role in the capture or release of Sharafi. The official dismissed any claims of torture, saying "the CIA does not conduct or condone torture."

Sharafi's comments came a day after 15 British sailors released by Iran said they had been subject to psychological pressure and coercion in captivity. The sailors, captured in the Persian Gulf on March 23 for allegedly entering Iranian waters, were freed Wednesday.

At the time of Sharafi's disappearance, Iran alleged the diplomat had been abducted by an Iraqi military unit commanded by American forces — a charge repeated by several Iraqi Shiite lawmakers. U.S. authorities denied any role in his disappearance.

In the report Saturday read by a newscaster, Sharafi, second secretary at the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, said he was kidnapped by agents of an Iraqi organization operating under CIA supervision and was badly tortured.

State television said signs of torture were still visible on Sharafi, who is being treated at an Iranian hospital. Images of Sharafi were not shown.

The television quoted Sharafi as saying he was approached by agents while shopping in Baghdad. The agents allegedly showed him Iraqi Defense Ministry identification papers and were driving U.S. coalition vehicles.

He said they took him to a base near Baghdad airport and interrogated him in both Arabic and English, questioning him mainly about Iran's influence in Iraq and assistance to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government and Iraqi groups. Sharafi did not provide additional details about his captors or their nationalities.

U.S. officials allege that Iran provides money and weapons to Iraqi Shiite militias.

After the initial interrogation, Sharafi said that his captors "softened their behavior and showed leniency to encourage" him to cooperate.

"I explained I was unable to do anything outside my legal responsibilities," Sharafi was quoted as saying. "Later, they released me under pressure from Iraqi government officials. They dropped me near the back of the airport."

His release came a day before Iran freed the 15 British sailors, raising speculation that it was part of a deal to liberate the Brits. Both London and Tehran have denied any links between the two events.

Several of the British crew members said Friday that they had been blindfolded, bound, kept in solitary confinement and subjected to psychological pressure during their captivity.

Marine Joe Tindell, 21, said he believed one of his colleagues had been executed on the second day of the ordeal. He said the crew believed they were being taken to the British Embassy to be released, but were dumped in a holding facility.

"We had a blindfold and plastic cuffs, hands behind our backs, heads against the wall ... there were weapons cocking," Tindell told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "Someone said, I quote, 'Lads, lads I think we're going to get executed' ... someone was sick and as far as I was concerned he had just had his throat cut."

They said they were coerced into saying they had been in Iranian waters when they were detained. Britain continues to insist its troops were in Iraqi waters working under a U.N. mandate.