- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 12, 2010

TEHRAN — A nuclear physics professor who publicly backed Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi in the disputed June presidential election was killed Tuesday when a remote-controlled bomb rigged to a motorcycle blew up outside his home.

State media identified the victim as Masoud Ali Mohammadi, 50, a professor at Tehran University, which has been at the center of recent protests by student opposition supporters. Before the election, pro-reform Web sites published Mr. Ali Mohammadi’s name among a list of 240 Tehran University teachers who supported Mr. Mousavi.

The government blamed the bombing on an armed Iranian opposition group that it said operated under the direction of Israel and the United States. Iran often accuses both countries of meddling in its affairs — both when it comes to postelection unrest and its nuclear program. Israel’s Foreign Ministry had no comment.

Reflecting the internal tension that grew out of the election, hard-line government supporters called at recent street rallies for the execution of opposition leaders.

Iran’s nuclear work also has put it under pressure from the United States and its European allies, which suspect Tehran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Iran denies that and insists its nuclear work only has peaceful aims, such as energy production.

Mr. Ali Mohammadi had just left his house on his way to work when the remote-controlled explosion went off, state TV said. The blast shattered the windows of his home in northern Tehran’s Qeytariyeh neighborhood and left the pavement outside smeared with blood and strewn with debris. The semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi as confirming the killing and saying no one has been arrested.

Mr. Ali Mohammadi, who wrote several articles on quantum and theoretical physics in scientific journals, was not a well-known figure in Iran.

He was also not an outspoken or visible supporter of Iran’s opposition movement during the months of turmoil that have followed the election, though his name did appear on the list of professors who backed Mr. Mousavi before the vote. That list was published on several pro-reform Web sites in the weeks leading up to the vote.

Mr. Mousavi and his supporters claim he was true winner of the June election but fraud robbed him of his victory. His supporters staged massive street protests in the weeks after the election, which met with a harsh government crackdown.

The semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted a Tehran University official as saying Mr. Ali Mohammadi was not involved in any political activity.

“The prominent professor was not a political figure and had no activity in the field of politics,” Mehr quoted Ali Moqari, head of the university’s science department, as saying.

A spokesman for Iran’s atomic agency, Ali Shirzadian, told the Associated Press that Mr. Ali Mohammadi had no link with the agency.

“He was not involved in the country’s nuclear program,” Mr. Shirzadian said, adding that the professor was active only in the theoretical field at Tehran University.

Mr. Ali Mohammadi was a member of some academic associations focusing on experimental science, and a government news Web site called Borna described Mr. Ali Mohammadi as a senior nuclear scientist but gave no other details.

In 1992, he received the first doctorate in nuclear physics to be awarded in Iran, from Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry accused Israel and the U.S. of involvement, according to the Web site of state TV.

“In initial investigations, there are some indications of vices of the Zionist regime, the U.S. and their mercenaries in Iran in the terrorist incident,” ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying in the report.

Mr. Mehmanparst, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the killing of nuclear scientists cannot thwart the country’s scientific and technological progress.

Iran also directed suspicion at the exiled opposition group the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran. One conservative Iranian Web site close to the ruling establishment said the group carried out the attack under direction of Israeli agents.

The Tabnak site, which carried the report, is closely associated with Mohsen Rezaei, who serves on an advisory body to the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Mr. Rezaei was the only conservative candidate to challenge hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the election.

The People’s Mujahedeen, however, denied any involvement in the killing.

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