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.”
The new president’s hard-line political views and his background as a student radical in the Iranian Revolution are well known.
But recollections of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s direct and personal role in the embassy drama promises to complicate the already rocky relations between Iran’s new president and the Bush administration.
Donald Sharer, a retired Navy captain who was for a time a cellmate of Col. Scott at the Evin prison in northern Tehran, remembered Mr. Ahmadinejad as “a hard-liner, a cruel individual.”
“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.”
Col. Scott said he responded by making a rude gesture to Mr. Ahmadinejad.
The man about to become Iran’s sixth president since the revolution became “red-faced” and stormed out of the cell.
U.S. officials have condemned the voting procedures that led to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s upset in a runoff win over moderate cleric Hashemi Rafsanjani on June 25.
Iran’s hard-line Islamic rulers, who have long and close ties to the incoming president, barred all but a handful of the 1,000 candidates who sought to run in the election.
It has long been known that Mr. Ahmadinejad, then a 23-year-old engineering student at Tehran’s Elm-o Sanaat University, played a critical role in planning the embassy takeover in November 1979.
An ardent supporter of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Mr. Ahmadinejad was a founding member of the Office for Strengthening Unity Between Universities and Theological Seminaries. The OSU, as it became known, was closely linked to Ayatollah Khomeini.
The OSU organized the storming of the U.S. Embassy compound in Tehran. Mr. Ahmadinejad backed the decision and reportedly proposed the student radicals should storm the Soviet Union’s embassy as well.