Iranian Diplomat Claims Torture During Captivity - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

04/12/07 - Tehran, Iran

Iranian Diplomat Claims Torture During Captivity

An Iranian diplomat showed off wounds on his feet Wednesday, and said they were inflicted by drills during two months of detention in Iraq. He said he was harshly interrogated by an American official when he refused to cooperate.

The U.S. has denied any role in the capture of Jalal Sharafi, the second secretary at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, who was seized by gunmen in Baghdad on February 4. Tehran has said he was taken by an Iraqi military unit commanded by U.S. forces -- an accusation repeated by several Iraqi Shiite lawmakers.

The comments by Sharafi came as Iran stepped up complaints over its personnel detained in Iraq, hinting that it might boycott an international conference on Iraq unless American forces release five Iranians detained in a January raid.

Sharafi, speaking to reporters in his first appearance since his release on April 3, said he was taken by men who at first pretended to be militants but later told him they were with Iraqi intelligence.

Sitting in a wheelchair and speaking in a weak voice, Sharafi showed reporters nine partially healed holes in his ankle and foot he said were caused by a drill. Shiite militiamen -- some connected to Iraqi security forces -- have been known to torture captives with drills.

"They tied my feet and hands and lashed my soles hundreds of times with cables and kicked and punched me," said Sharafi, who also showed traces of slash marks on his back. "They performed mock executions while my eyes were blindfolded and my hands and feet were bound." He said the drill torture occurred early in his captivity, and beatings took place throughout.

Dr. Ali Sharifi, a psychiatrist, said Sharafi showed symptoms of sensory and sleep deprivation.

Peter G. Stocker, an official from the International Committee of the Red Cross who examined Sharafi on Wednesday, told The Associated Press his wounds "happened during his detention." Stocker could not say who caused them.

Sharafi said he was questioned several times by an American who told him "he was in charge of my case and was in direct contact with the American Embassy."

"The English-speaking man threatened to kill me by bites of wild dogs," said the 40-year-old diplomat, referring to the American. "The American began with a soft attitude at first. But he turned harsh when he could not get any cooperation from me."

Sharafi said his captors questioned him about the other five detained Iranians and asked him what groups Iran supports. "They wanted me to confess that Iran intervenes in Iraq's domestic affairs and was a threat to the countries of the region," he said.

On Saturday, Iranian state TV quoted Sharafi as saying the CIA was involved in his interrogation. He did not specify CIA involvement in his comments on Wednesday.

U.S. Embassy officials in Baghdad did not immediately answer calls seeking comment Wednesday. Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said Saturday that "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 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."

Johndroe accused Iran of making the claims to deflect attention from its seizure of 15 British sailors in the Persian Gulf. The sailors were released last week.

Tensions have risen between the U.S. and Iraq over Washington's accusations that Tehran is providing deadly weapons and training to militants attacking U.S. forces in Iraq, a claim Iran denies. President Bush has said the U.S. military would aggressively pursue Iranian agents who stir up trouble in Iraq.

In January, U.S. troops seized five Iranians in northern Iraq, saying they were providing money and weapons to militants.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi suggested Iran may boycott a conference on Iraq next month unless the five Iranians are freed. The conference in Egypt, which the United States is expected to attend along with delegates from Britain, France, Russia, China and Arab nations, aims to build regional coordination to help stem violence in Iraq.

"We have reminded Iraqi officials that until the time of the Iranian diplomats' release, Iran's attendance in any conference on Iraq, should the U.S. attend, would encounter problems and barriers," Araghchi was quoted as saying by the hardline Kayhan newspaper.

On Wednesday, however, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the conference is a priority for Iran. He told the state news agency that Tehran would prefer that the meeting be held in Baghdad but that the issue could be worked out.

AP and/or CNN material provided by CNN NEWSOURCE. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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