- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 7, 2007

TEHRAN — An Iranian diplomat freed two months after being abducted in Iraq accused the CIA of torturing him during his detention, state television reported yesterday. The United States immediately denied any involvement in the Iranian’s disappearance or release.

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

“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,” he said.

Mr. Sharafi made his comments a day after 15 British sailors released by Iran said they had been subject to psychological pressure and coercion in captivity. The sailors were captured in the Persian Gulf on March 23.

Iran said, at the time of his disappearance, Mr. Sharafi had been abducted by an Iraqi military unit commanded by American forces — a charge repeated by several Iraqi Shi’ite lawmakers. U.S. authorities denied any role in his disappearance.

“The United States had nothing to do with Mr. Sharafi’s detention, and we welcome his return to Iran,” said Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman who was with President Bush in Texas yesterday.

“The Iranian propaganda machine has been in overdrive since they paraded the British sailors around on TV. This is just the latest theatrics of a government trying to deflect attention away from its own unacceptable actions,” Mr. Johndroe added.

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

U.S. officials said that Iran provides money and weapons to Iraqi Shi’ite militias.

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. They said they were coerced into saying they had been in Iranian waters when they were detained, and one said he thought one of his colleagues had been executed on the second day of the ordeal.

In London, the British Defense Ministry said the freed sailors and marines are free to sell their stories to newspapers and television because of “exceptional” circumstances, Agence France-Presse reported.

Iran has dismissed the crew members’ charges as propaganda.

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