Attack against physicist: Iranians do not trust official theory of sabotage

2010/01/13

Published in weekly magazine “Spiegel” on January 13 2010
Source (German): http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/0,1518,671717,00.html#ref=rss


By Ulrike Putz, Beirut

A physicist was assassinated – now Iran’s regime and the reformist movement are quarreling over the question to which political camp he belonged. Above all, the public doubts circulating about the official version prove one thing: After the disputed presidential election the state has lost the last vestige of its credibility.

Who was Massoud Ali Mohammadi? The violent death of the 50 year old professor in Tehran on Wednesday [sic] morning has triggered a fierce argument about this simple question. The regime and the reformist movement provide different information. Both sides claim that Ali Mohammadi was one of their committed supporters.

* The physicist was specialized on nuclear sciences, his death was probably an act of sabotage by Israel and the USA, directed against the Iranian nuclear program – said Tehran judiciary officials only hours after the deadly attack with a remote-controlled bomb. They added that Ali Mohammadi was a deeply religious man, an advocator of the Islamic Revolution

* No way, objected representatives of the reformist movement through their traditional channels via internet forums and blogs: Ali Mohammadi was not at all involved in Iran’s nuclear program, he did research on quantum mechanics. As a professed supporter of the defied presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi, he after the allegedly rigged presidential elections in June had encouraged his students to take to the streets. The regime is responsible for his murder, the state wanted to issue a warning for Iran’s increasingly critical academics.

Despite all contradictions, the case of Ali Mohammadi reveals one thing: The controversial elections of last summer may have brought victory for the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, however, at very heavy costs. The state has lost all credibility within the population. Whatever was reported by state-run media in the past months was immediately researched and straightened by dissidents, and replaced on the internet by a different – their own – truth. Iranians, who already were well-trained in exposing the two-facedness of their government, now massively resort to reformist websites and blogs in order to get an acceptable picture of the situation.

Official explanations of the murder are being doubted
And indeed, on closer inspection, the official version of the story about the murder of Ali Mohammadi reveals several weaknesses. By a mere look at his website at the Tehran University it becomes clear that the physicist was not at all specialized on applied nuclear sciences, as official sources had suggested. Instead, he regularly published articles on subjects in the field of particle research.

Several bloggers who claimed to have studied under Ali Mohammadi refer to him as a reformist and describe how he initiated political debates, encouraged them to take to the streets. Moreover, Ali Mohammadi’s name can be found in a list of professors who declared to be supporters of Moussavi prior to the elections.

There are allegations that the murder of Ali Mohammadi is supposed to intimidate Iranian professors. Two weeks ago, 88 professors had signed an appeal condemning the violent actions committed against their students by security forces.

Although these facts indicate that the official version of the story is not entirely plausible, it can currently not be fully ruled out that Ali Mohammadi might indeed have fallen victim to foreign intelligence services – he would probably not be the first one. In January of 2007, nuclear expert Ardeshir Hassanpour died under mysterious circumstances at his work place in the nuclear reactor in Isfahan. Rumors that the Israeli intelligence service Mossad was responsible for his death have never quite ceased.

Iran’s nuclear program is indeed a target for acts of sabotage
Israeli intelligence agent Ronen Bergman believes that the nuclear program of Iran in the past four years was indeed targeted by massive and successful acts of sabotage. For example, two airplanes crashed that were carrying freight destined for the nuclear program, and seemingly unexplainable fires broke out in two research laboratories, writes Bergman in his book “The Secret War with Iran”.

Likewise, there were similarly obscure cases of two men who disappeared from Iran and allegedly defected to Western powers: General General Ali Reza Asgari’s trail ran out in March of 2007, that of Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri in August of last year.

What is peculiar: In the past, Iran’s security authorities were eager to conceal such embarrassing incidents as long as possible. In Ali Mohammadi’s case, however, the regime only hours after the incident publicly accused the “triangle of wickedness – the Zionist regime, America, and their hired agents” to be at the bottom of the terrorist act. By this rather embarrassing concession, acknowledging that Western intelligence agents can operate in Tehran at will, the regime attempts to substantiate their theory that foreign agents also orchestrated the post-election protests, says Gary Sick, expert on Iran at the Columbia University in the USA, in his blog.

Incident evokes “Chain murders” of the 1990s
Reformists relate the assassination of Ali Mohammadi to the death of Moussavi’s nephew: After Ali Habibi Moussavi had been repeatedly threatened, supposedly because of his prominent uncle, he was shot dead in front of his house in Tehran in the end of December.

From the viewpoint of the opposition, this was a politically motivated crime, and possibly just the start of a series of murders that Iran saw before: the so-called chain murders, killing dozens of intellectuals and non-conformists in the 1990s. At that time, Israeli and American agents were initially named as culprits as well.

Only in 1999 the government admitted that the perpetrators were members of the Iranian security forces. The man who was arrested as the leader of the gang of murderers, that according to official information was influenced by Western agents, was Saeed Emami, who then quickly died in prison, reputedly because he poisoned himself.

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