Thursday, June 30, 2005

Ex-Hostages Say Iran Leader-Elect a Captor in '79

Iran leader linked to '79 embassy crisis

By Joyce Howard Priceand David R. Sands
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
June 30, 2005

Americans held in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Iran said yesterday they clearly recall Iranian President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad playing a central role in the takeover, interrogating captives and demanding harsher treatment for the hostages.

"As soon as I saw his picture in the paper, I knew that was the bastard," said retired Army Col. Charles Scott, 73, a former hostage who lives in Jonesboro, Ga.

"He was one of the top two or three leaders," Col. Scott said in a telephone interview. "The new president of Iran is a terrorist."

[snip]

"I know he was an interrogator," said Capt. Sharer, now 64 and living in Bedford, Iowa. He said he was personally questioned by Mr. Ahmadinejad on one occasion but does not recall the subject of the interrogation.

Col. Scott recalled an incident when Mr. Ahmadinejad berated a friendly Iranian guard who had allowed the two Americans to visit another U.S. hostage in a neighboring cell. Col. Scott, who understands Farsi, said Mr. Ahmadinejad told the guard, "You shouldn't let these pigs out of their cells."

[snip]

Another former hostage, Kevin Hermening of Mosinee, Wis., said he came into contact with Mr. Ahmadinejad right after the takeover.

"He was involved in interrogating me the day we were taken captive," recalled Mr. Hermening, who, at 20, was the youngest hostage.

Mr. Hermening, a Marine security guard at the Tehran embassy, said his interrogators were seeking the combinations for "safes and other things that were locked."

"There is absolutely no reason the United States should be trying to normalize relations with a man who seems intent on trying to force-feed the world with state-sponsored terrorism," Mr. Hermening said.





Via LA TIMES

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- A quarter-century after they were taken captive in Iran, five former American hostages say they got an unexpected reminder of their 444-day ordeal in the bearded face of Iran's new president-elect. Watching coverage of Iran's presidential election on television dredged up 25-year-old memories that prompted four of the former hostages to exchange e-mails. And those four realized they shared the same conclusion -- the firm belief that President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been one of their Iranian captors.

"This is the guy. There's no question about it," said former hostage Chuck Scott, a retired Army colonel who lives in Jonesboro, Ga. "You could make him a blond and shave his whiskers, put him in a zoot suit and I'd still spot him."

Scott and former hostages David Roeder, William J. Daugherty and Don A. Sharer told The Associated Press on Wednesday they have no doubt Ahmadinejad, 49, was one of the hostage-takers. A fifth ex-hostage, Kevin Hermening, said he reached the same conclusion after looking at photos.

Not everyone agrees. Former hostage and retired Air Force Col. Thomas E. Schaefer, of Peoria, Ariz., said he doesn't recognize Ahmadinejad, by face or name, as one of his captors.

Several former students among the hostage-takers also said Ahmadinejad did not participate. And a close aide to Ahmadinejad denied the president-elect took part in the seizure of the embassy or in holding Americans hostage.

Militant students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days to protest Washington's refusal to hand over the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi for trial. The shah fled Iran earlier that year after he was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution.

The aide, Meisan Rowhani, told the AP from Tehran that Ahmadinejad was asked during recent private meetings if he had a role in the hostage taking. Rowhani said he replied, "No. I believed that if we do that the world will swallow us."

Another former hostage, Paul Lewis, said he thought Ahmadinejad looked vaguely familiar when he saw a picture of him on the news last week, but the former Marine embassy guard said he could not be certain.

"My memories were more of the gun barrel, not the people behind it," said Lewis, who lives in the central Illinois town of Sidney.

Ex-hostage Alan Golacinski also said he couldn't be certain.

"I can't identify this individual as one of my interrogators because I was blindfolded during all of my interrogations," said Golacinski, who was an embassy security officer. However, Golacinski said, "He did look somewhat familiar."

Scott and Roeder both said they were sure Ahmadinejad was present while they were interrogated.

"I can absolutely guarantee you he was not only one of the hostage-takers, he was present at my personal interrogation," Roeder said in an interview from his home in Pinehurst, N.C.

Daugherty, who worked for the CIA in Iran and now lives in Savannah, said a man he's convinced was Ahmadinejad was among a group of ringleaders escorting a Vatican representative during a visit in the early days of the hostage crisis.

"It's impossible to forget a guy like that," Daugherty said. "Clearly the way he acted, the fact he gave orders, that he was older, most certainly he was one of the ringleaders."

Ahmadinejad, the hard-line mayor of Tehran, was declared winner Wednesday of Iran's presidential runoff election, defeating one of Iran's best-known statesmen, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani. The stunning upset put conservatives firmly in control of all branches of power in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Scott, Roeder, Daugherty and Sharer said they have been exchanging e-mails since seeing Ahmadinejad emerge as a serious contender in Iran's elections.

"He was extremely cruel," said Sharer, of Bedford, Ind. "He's one of the hard-liners. So that tells you where their government's going to stand for the next four to five years."

After seeing recent newspaper photos, Sharer said, "I don't have any doubts" that Ahmadinejad was a hostage-taker.

A memory expert cautioned that people who discuss their recollections can influence one another in reinforcing false memories. Also, it's harder to identify from memory someone of a different race or ethnicity, said psychologist Elizabeth Loftus of the University of California, Irvine.




(CBS Photo)