The Iranian television shows the medical examination of the diplomat who was kidnapped in Baghdad and now accuses the CIA
Written for us by
Attilio de Castris
In the heated parliamentary debate over the events that took place behind the
scenes of the Mastrogiacomo kidnapping of 12th April last, the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs Massimo D’Alema mentioned
the silence that in other countries shrouds any negotiations over hostages abroad.
Though implicit, the reference was to the freeing of the 15 British sailors who
were arrested by the Iranian pasdaran on 23rd March last in the Shatt el Arab strait and who were freed on 4th April last.
An unsolved mystery
. At first sight it is difficult to find the connection between two such different
episodes, but there is a link, and it centres around the figure of Jalal Sharafi,
secretary of the Iranian Embassy in Iraq. The diplomat was kidnapped on 4th
February last, while he was shopping in Baghdad. An armed commando, which according
to Sharafi showed Iraqi Defense Ministry identification passes, took him by force,
and all traces of him had been lost. No ransom request was ever presented. Sharafi
re-appeared suddenly, on 3rd
April last, one day before the British soldiers were freed. Coincidence? It
doesn’t look like it, although officially the British Prime Minister Tony Blair
denied that any exchange with Teheran had taken place, and the Iranian president
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defined the release as “a personal present to the British
people”. In actual fact it seems that things went rather differently, and D’Alema’s
caustic comment seems to confirm the theory of an exchange: Sharafi’s delivery
in exchange for the soldiers’. Sharafi, on the 7th
April, stated that he was kidnapped and tortured by US forces in Iraq, with
the connivance of the Iraqi secret services. “They took me to a military base,
near the airport. Some CIA agents –the diplomat stated- were asking questions
about Iran’s influence in Iraq, and they wanted information about the help given
to the al-Maliki government, to the Shiite, Sunnite and Kurd groups by Teheran.
When I spoke about the official relations between the Iranian and Iraqi governments,
they tortured me even more roughly, day and night”.
Move and countermove
. Sharafi concluded his tale by stating that he had “heard that, thanks to the
pressure exerted by the Iraqi authorities, they had to free me”. A little later,
he added, he was freed near the airport in Baghdad, from where he then reached
the Iranian Embassy.
13th April last, the Iranian state television transmitted the images of the medical
examination that Jalal Sharafi underwent at the hands of the International Red
Cross, in the presence of the Iranian Ambassador to Iraq. Peter Stocker, the doctor
who examined the Iranian diplomat, stated that Sharafi’s body showed the signs
of a long imprisonment, including those of the chains that held him prisoner.
“I cannot say where it happened or who did this” Stocker commented “ I can only
confirm the violence inflicted during his imprisonment”. Sharafi’s Iranian doctor
went further, stating that he had found evident signs of torture on his patient:
injuries and internal haemmorhages, as well as a fracture to the nose. Stocker
did not go so far, and the images do not elucidate what happened. The United States
have always denied any involvment both in Sharafi’s case and in the those of other
mysterious disappearances that have recently concerned Iranian soldiers ans diplomats.
The link between Sharafi’s deliverance and that of the Brithish soldiers still
remains to be proved, but the Middle-Easterns chessboard seems to grow more and
more complex, and kidnappings seem to be a diplomatic instrument just like any